Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, is sometimes referred to in ads for clinics offering Botox or other botulinum toxin injections. Botox is a prescription-only medicine (POM), which should be injected by a suitably qualified health professional and which cannot be advertised to the public (rule 12.12) (MyCityDeal Ltd, 14 March 2012 ).
In traditional non-broadcast media, such as leaflets, press ads, brochures, posters and even on sponsored ads, the ASA views virtually any reference to Botox and other POMs as a breach of rule 12.12. References to treating “excessive sweating” (hyperhidrosis) or any of the other conditions for which POM may be indicated for, may be unacceptable if they are considered an indirect promotion of prescription-only medicine.
There may be some limited exceptions for websites, principally, those for clinics and pharmacies, offering consultations for the treatment of excessive sweating. Such websites may provide information about a POM in the context of the product being a possible treatment option following a consultation. Marketers offering POMs may for example, include the claim “a consultation for the treatment of excessive sweating.”
The offering of a “consultation” in the first instance is paramount because the name of the POM should not be referenced in the initial ad. No reference to a POM should be made on a sponsored ad link, a Home page of a website, logos, testimonials, hover text, and any small print at the bottom of a Home page should not refer to POMs or directly link consumers to a page where it is referred to. Price lists included on a website should not include product claims or encourage viewers to choose a POM based on the price. Marketers should ensure that the casually browsing consumer does not come across information relating POMs with ease.
In February 2012 the ASA ruled on a website that stated “Botox is proven to be a useful treatment for the relief of severe primary axillary hyperhidrosis in patients unable to obtain relief using antiperspirants. Primary Hyperhidrosis means excessive sweating which is not caused by a medical condition... Botox injections do not cure hyperhidrosis; your symptoms will return...follow up injections are required…” (Skinboost 22 February 2012). The ASA considered that it was acceptable for a website to make limited references to a POM as a treatment option, provided the advertisers emphasised the promotion of the consultation where a range of therapeutic options would be discussed, and which may or may not lead to the provision of Botox.
Further information can be sought from the Copy Advice team, and advice is also available from the MHRA Advertising Standards Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org. Botulinum toxin products may be advertised directly to the medical, dental, veterinary and allied professions