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Boots 'disappointed' by order to remove nasal spray advert

ASA: Boots must not suggest the spray can prevent cold and flu (Photo: Adam Jacobs)

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that an advert for the defensive properties of Boots Cold and Flu Defence Nasal Spray is not supported by sufficiently robust evidence

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”.


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JOHN MUNDAY, Locum pharmacist

It was my understanding that marketing material such as this went to the Pharmacy Superintendent's office prior to public release. I guess that this was a borderline one with a lot of head scratching - do we or don't we before someone pulled the trigger. I have a lot more to complain about when we still see all that nonsense written about vitamins and antioxidants to this day. Boots advertise tens of thousands of sku's per year so to make a slip with just one or two is not that bad really.

Shabs A, Community pharmacist

What's wrong with multivitamins and antioxidants?

David Kent, Community pharmacist

They are similarly useless!

JOHN MUNDAY, Locum pharmacist

Yeah, it is all pseudo science - actually, not even science but mumbo jumbo! For example antioxidants - a free radical can exist in super high temperature plasma but not in a solution for more than a billionth of a second. The idea that an antioxidant can somehow mop up dangerous free radicals in the body when taken orally is ludicrous! It maybe that multivitamins have a role if you have liver dysfunction together with a terrible diet but please note that homo sapiens have been on the planet for millennia prior to branded multivitamin preparations without their need. Granted that in medieval times, some diets were poor I suppose. These are attempts to manufacture markets for something we don't need to generate a profit. Thanks for letting me rant - I feel better now!

They're entirely pointless for pretty much everyone.

Harry Tolly, Pharmacist

This is the second of two complaints that the ASA found aganist Boots within the last few weeks alone. This surely needs investigating by the GPhC ? If an Independent had a similar advert in his windows for successive periods and they were found to be in breach I am sure the GPhC would be jumping on his/her back.

Rahim Mawani, Manager

It seems that Boots tend to think that its easier to seek forgiveness than to get permission!! after all, any publicity is good publicity

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