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.
In traditional non-broadcast media, such as leaflets, press ads, brochures, posters and even on sponsored ads, the ASA views virtually any reference to a POM as a breach of rule 12.12. Marketers who offer a POM as well as other non-prescription only products may advertise a “consultation”. However, they may not name a POM directly or describe the product in any way that would imply a POM is being offered. Marketers must be careful to avoid an indirect promotion of the product
In 2004, the ASA ruled that a Scottish clinic had indirectly advertised appetite suppressants that were prescription-only. Even though those medicines were prescribed by medical practitioners, the ASA ruled that the advertiser should not make future weight-loss claims that relied, in part or in whole, on the use of POMs (Strathearn Medical Clinics Ltd, 12 May 2004). That position was reinforced by a later adjudication (Peptalking Ltd, 26 April 2006).
Promote the “consultation” not the product
There are some exceptions for websites, principally, those for clinics and pharmacies, offering consultations for problems relating to weight control. Such websites may provide information about a POM in the context of the product being a possible treatment option following a consultation. A claim like “a consultation for weight control” is likely to be considered acceptable.
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 2014 the ASA Upheld a complaint about a website promoting phentermine or diethylpropion. The ASA noted that the Bodyline Clinic website focused on promoting a consultation service for advice on the treatment of weight-related conditions. However, a number of claims referred to specifically named POMs and their effectiveness. The claim "If appropriate, you may be prescribed Phentermine or Diethylpropion. They are appetite suppressants often known as diet pills, or lipase inhibitor to help you adapt to your plan" appeared on the home page. The ASA considered that the claim’s appearance meant that consumers' attention was drawn to named POMs before they had had an opportunity to find out more information about the consultation service offered (The Bodyline Clinic Ltd, 29 January 2014). Balanced and factual information
Balanced and factual information
Where information about a POM is included on a website, the ASA considers that the information has to be balanced and factual and must be presented in the context of an ad for the service, i.e. the consultation. The
ASA is likely to consider that any claims used should accord with the wording found on the patient information leaflets (PIL’s) or the information found in the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC’s). There should be no promotion, whether direct or otherwise, of the POM or of the service as a means to obtain the POM.
POMs may, however, be advertised to the medical, dental and related professions.
See the associated entries on "Weight control" and Anti-ageing: botulinum toxin products