ASA Adjudication on Novartis Consumer Health UK Ltd
Novartis Consumer Health UK Ltd
24 October 2012
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
Picture Production Company
A TV ad for Voltarol Emulgel and Voltarol Pain-eze tablets included a voice-over that stated, "Now available prescription strength Voltarol Pain-eze tablets you can get over the counter." A pack shot of the product showed the text "Extra Strength 25 mg tablets".
Two doctors challenged whether the claim "prescription strength" was misleading as they believed the adult prescription strength would contain 50 mg rather than 25 mg of Voltarol (diclofenac).
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Novartis Consumer Health UK Ltd (Novartis) said that the ad had been pre-vetted and approved as compliant with the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) Code of Practice for Over the Counter (OTC) medicines advertising and was pre-approved by Clearcast. They said the PAGB Code, Rule 20, required that advertising should not mislead in relation to the nature of the product, ingredients or indications. Specifically, they said guidance on Rule 20 concerned the use of the term 'prescription strength' which limited the use of the term to a situation where the OTC product was the same strength as a prescription-only variant, and was the highest strength available as an OTC product.
They said the claim in question, "now available prescription strength Voltarol Pain-eze tablets that you can get over the counter", was applicable only to their Voltarol Pain-eze Extra Strength 25 mg (diclofenac) tablets and took care to ensure this product only was shown during the corresponding voice-over, with a clear pack shot of the 25 mg product rather than Voltarol Emulgel. They also said the claim was based on the prescription only Voltarol Rapid 25 mg tablet which contained the same active ingredient as the advertised product and was still prescribed in line with the licensed recommended dose for mild pain and inflammation, 75 mg daily in up to 3 divided doses as stated in the product Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC).
Clearcast said the claim matched the product SPC and the PAGB's approval who requested the pack shot showed the 25 mg product. They said their medical advisory panel also approved the ad. They acknowledged that the complainants believed that the prescription strength should contain 50 rather than 25 mg but reiterated Novartis's position for the minimum licensed dose in mild cases of pain and inflammation.
The ASA noted the various approvals that had been sought prior to broadcast and the SPC stated "The recommended daily dose is 100-150 mg in two or three divided doses. For milder cases, 75-100 mg daily in two or three divided doses is usually sufficient". We acknowledged that whilst a doctor may write a prescription based on individual circumstances, consumers would be purchasing the product for self-diagnosed symptoms. Because an individual dose could be 25 mg according to the SPC, which was similar to a prescription dose for milder symptoms, we concluded that ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.