Boots is “disappointed” the advertising regulator has ordered it to remove a poster claiming its nasal spray is "clinically proven to defend against cold and flu".
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the claim on the poster for Boots' Cold and Flu Defence Nasal Spray – which appeared on the London underground – is not supported by “sufficiently robust” evidence.
Boots stressed that the spray, which contains carrageenan, “has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the duration of cold and flu-like symptoms when used as symptoms begin”.
The health and beauty giant has revised its advertising materials “to ensure the intended use of the product is clearly understood”, it told C+D yesterday (November 18).
Boots submitted four studies on the effectiveness of other sprays that contain carrageenan, and one in vitro study on its own spray, the ASA said. The regulator sought “expert advice” before acknowledging that one of these studies provided “some evidence” that a carrageenan nasal spray “could reduce symptoms and duration of viral infections detected in patients, when taken alone and appropriately”.
However, even this study was “not sufficiently robust to show that the nasal spray was clinically proven to treat and prevent colds and flu”, it said in its ruling last week (November 11).
Not intended to prevent cold and flu
The ASA noted Boots’ view that the phrase “defend against” was not intended as a claim that its product could prevent cold or flu infections, but the regulator stressed that consumers would interpret the claim "as a whole" to mean the product has "been shown to have a prophylactic effect”.
The ASA told Boots that the advert must not appear in its current form again, and stressed that its future advertising must not “state or suggest” that the product could be used to treat and prevent cold and flu.
Last month, the ASA upheld a pharmacist’s complaint that an advert claiming that Boots Protect Plus Blue Lenses protect against “harmful” blue light was “misleading”.