Ad description

A paid-for Google ad for an online pharmacy, Pharmica, seen on 31 May 2021, featured text that stated “Buy Erection Treatment £7.19 – Lowest UK Price Guarantee. Get 10% Off All ED Treatment. Easily Treat Erectile Dysfunction … Spring Sale: 10% off ED Tablets Today Code ED10”.

Issue

The complainant challenged whether prescription-only medicines (POMs) were being advertised to the public.

Response

Pharmica Ltd did not believe the ad had promoted POMs. They pointed out that neither the ad, nor the landing page to which it linked, included any terms or text relating to POMs. They believed the term “ED Tablets” could refer to either POM or non-POM ED treatments. They pointed out that the savings claim in the ad did not refer to POMs specifically, and said the price promotion had not been used in an attempt to upsell specific POMs.

Assessment

Upheld

The CAP Code stated that prescription-only medicines or prescription-only medical treatments must not be advertised to the public.

The ASA noted that the ad featured the claim “10% off ED Tablets Today”, but did not mention specific products. The website landing page to which the ad linked featured a range of POM and non-POM tablets, for the treatment of ED. In that context, we considered that the references to “tablets” in the ad would be understood by consumers as referring to both POM and non-POM tablets for the treatment of ED and that the 10% off promotion therefore applied to the advertiser’s POM and non-POM tablets.

We sought advice from the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Their view was that an ad for ED treatment that included references to “tablets”, and which also had a clear implication that would be the outcome of a consultation, were likely to promote POMs, unless it made clear that an over the counter (OTC) product was being advertised.

We noted that the ad did not refer to any other treatment options and considered that it therefore had a clear implication that tablets would be the outcome of a consultation.

While we noted that the ad did not specifically name any of the POMs that could treat ED, we considered that in the absence of any information stating that the 10% off promotion applied exclusively to non-POMs, the ad promoted POMs to the public and therefore breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule  12.12 12.12 Prescription-only medicines or prescription-only medical treatments may not be advertised to the public.  (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).

Action

The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Pharmica Ltd not to advertise POMs to the public in future.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

12.12    


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