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'Misleading' Pharmacy2U advertising reported to regulators

Representative bodies have reported a Pharmacy2U advertising campaign to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) for investigation over making “misleading claims”.

An advertising campaign, in which Pharmacy2U claims to be “paid less in NHS fees than an average high street pharmacy”, has been reported to the regulator by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp). 

In the campaign, it claims to have been paid over £9.5 million less in fees than high street pharmacies since April 2014, based on the cost to the NHS of fees per item.

C+D understands that NHS England does not pay Pharmacy2U any less and does not fundamentally treat it any differently from other pharmacies.

In a statement last week (September 25), the NPA said it had “asked for [Pharmacy2U’s] claims to be investigated, so that providers cannot benefit from misleading advertising of NHS services”.

“We regard the Pharmacy2U claim to have been paid £9 million less in NHS fees than ‘an average high street pharmacy’ as misleading,” the representative body added.

The NPA “believes that the claims made by Pharmacy2U may contravene GPhC standards” that require advertising to be “accurate, truthful and not exploitative of any lack of knowledge among the public,” it said.

The GPhC has confirmed to C+D that it is “reviewing the information” provided by the NPA in relation to Pharmacy2U’s advertising material.

C+D has approached Pharmacy2U for comment.

In addition to its initial statement, the NPA told C+D yesterday (September 29), that patients “should be able to make their choice of providers based on accurate information” and that this is an “important principle that needs to be upheld by the NHS and regulators”.

“Inaccurate or misleading claims about NHS services can undermine confidence in the NHS as well as impinging on fairness between providers,” the spokesperson added.

AIMp: Pharmacy2U is “flouting guidance”

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of AIMp, argued to C+D yesterday (September 29) that Pharmacy2U is “flouting guidance and previous rulings, angering not only hard-working community pharmacists who abide by the rules and professional standards, but – based on the feedback [AIMp has] received – members of the public too”.

AIMp has “raised issues about this with relevant regulators,” Ms Hannbeck added.

Numark managing director Jeremy Meader told C+D yesterday that: “Pharmacy2U’s presentation of the figures is a classic example of marketing foot-in-mouth. In effect, they are saying they do not – or cannot – provide the range of face-to-face patient care services and support people can access at local community pharmacies and which the NHS commissions because they make a difference to healthcare outcomes in our country.”

In 2018, Pharmacy2U was told by the Advertising Standards Authority to cease its adverts making claims about saving the NHS £300 million.

What do you make of the Pharmacy2U ad campaign?

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