A paid-for search ad for DailyChemist, an online pharmacy, seen on 18 May 2023 which appeared under the search term “Ventolin”, and was titled "Fast Dispatch, 24hr Delivery - Prices as low as £6.99/ihhaler". Text beneath that stated, “UK Regulated […] Asthma Inhaler from our online treatment service […]”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad breached the Code because it promoted prescription-only medicines (POMs) to the public.
Dr Rani Ltd t/a Daily Chemist said in their view the ad did not promote POMs or contain terminology that directly referred to them. They said that if a consumer initiated a search for a POM, it meant they had a degree of prior knowledge that distinguished them from the general public, and that the ad was therefore targeted at a specialist audience. Their content, be it in the search ad or the website it linked to, did not facilitate the purchase of Ventolin, or any other POM, to the public without a consultation. They said their website made clear to consumers that having a POM prescribed remained at the prescriber’s discretion, and that they had not made any claims in their advertising that implied there was a discount on the sale price of a POM. They referred to various screenshots of their website that outlined that discounts or incentives did not apply to POMs. They said they were committed to working collaboratively with the ASA to address and rectify any potential issues with the ad.
The ASA acknowledged and welcomed Daily Chemist’s willingness to work with the ASA and to make amendments to the ad.
The CAP Code stated that POMs or prescription-only medical treatments must not be advertised to the public.
The ad appeared under the search term “Ventolin” and stated “Prices as low as £6.99/inhaler” and “Buy Asthma Inhaler from our online treatment service”. We understood that Ventolin was the brand name for salbutamol sulphate reliever inhalers. We also understood that asthma inhalers were POMs. We therefore considered that consumers using that search term were likely to be looking for an online doctor consultation and prescription service that offered those POMs. We further considered consumers would understand the claims in the ad as referring to POM inhalers for the treatment of asthma.
We considered the ad’s reference to an “online treatment service” would be understood by consumers as a general description of the Daily Chemist’s service. Additionally, the ad did not refer to any other treatment options. We therefore considered the ad had a clear implication that a POM inhaler for the treatment of asthma would be the outcome of using Daily Chemist’s service. For those reasons we considered the ad promoted a POM to the public and had therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.12 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Dr Rani Ltd t/a Daily Chemist not to advertise POMs to the public in the future.