Prescription-only weight loss products - an enforcement notice

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), jointly with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has today published an Enforcement Notice to weight-loss treatment providers which makes clear and instructs them that they must not, directly or indirectly, promote prescription-only-medicines (POMs) to the public.

The decision to issue the Notice, titled Advertising of prescription-only weight-loss treatments, follows the publication of the ASA’s rulings involving health clinics Skinnyjab Ltd, Skinny Clinic and Skinny Revolution Ltd. A proactive monitoring sweep found that the clinics were advertising POMs via Instagram posts while also promoting irresponsible weight-loss claims.

Not only were we concerned to see POMs advertised to consumers, we were concerned to see each advertiser irresponsibly target weight-loss ads at people who were not overweight. Consequently, the ads were also banned for exploiting people’s insecurities over their body image.

The Enforcement Notice sets out that, alongside the prohibition on advertising POMs, advertisers must not promote irresponsible weight-loss claims. Specifically, the Notice targets the promotion of weight-loss medicines including liraglutide and semaglutide, which can be injected and taken orally.

It also reminds businesses that all ads should be socially responsible and that ads for slimming and weight-loss products and services should not breach other specific rules relevant to them. For example, ads for weight-loss products should not contain claims that people can lose precise amounts of weight within a stated period of time.

The Compliance team will take targeted enforcement action from 12th February against businesses which do not abide by the rules set out in the Notice. Advertisers unwilling to comply are also likely to be referred to the MHRA, which can issue further sanctions.

For advice about specific non-broadcast ads around medicinal or weight-loss claims, please contact the CAP Copy Advice team.


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