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Superdrug rapped for 'implied' POM promotion

Superdrug says its online advert did not breach MHRA guidelines

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that an online Superdrug advert for erectile dysfunction treatment "indirectly" advertised prescription-only medicines

Superdrug has been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for indirectly promoting prescription-only medicines (POM).

The ASA ruled last week (February 11) that an online advert by Superdrug, which claimed its erectile dysfunction treatment was “up to 76 per cent cheaper than competitors”, was an “implied reference” to POM products. 

Superdrug told C+D it had not breached MHRA guidance for consumer websites offering medicinal services. But it said it would ensure its adverts were designed in accordance with the ASA's ruling.

The ASA acknowledged that the advert, which was brought to its attention by online business Pharmacy2U, did not name a specific POM. The regulator also accepted that the erectile dysfunction treatment offered by Superdrug could consist of free advice and information instead of a POM.

Superdrug had argued that the advert directed consumers to its Online Doctor service, which was operated by a company specialising in online diagnosis and treatment services, the ASA said. The health and beauty company had claimed this meant there was “no guarantee that a customer would be prescribed a POM”, the regulator said.

Superdrug also highlighted that its savings claim was in accordance with MHRA guidance, which allows companies to feature indicative prices for medical treatments on their homepage. Although the advert appeared next to Google search results rather than solely on Superdrug's website, the company considered that the MHRA guidance showed that comparative pricing for erectile dysfunction treatments was permissible, the ASA said. 


Advert 'clearly related' to POM

But the ASA ruled that the advert's claim of the low cost of its erectile dysfunction service "clearly related to Superdrug’s POM treatment”, as it was the only option available at the time for consumers to achieve the advertised saving. 

“While its price accounted for the cost of the consultation and advice, it was nevertheless ultimately a POM treatment. For that reason, we considered that the ad focused on the availability of POM treatments at lower prices than elsewhere, as opposed to presenting POMs as a potential outcome of the consultation process,” the ASA said.

The regulator ruled that the advert breached rule 12.12 of the Code of Advertising Practice, which prohibits POMs or POM treatments being advertised to the public. It told Superdrug that the ad must not be used in its current form again and that the company must not directly or indirectly promote POMs in its future advertising.

What do you think about the ASA's decision?

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Pharmacy HLP, Manager

perhaps this whole thing needs a deeper look into, what with an internet connection and a postman people can obtain whatever they want. Dont kid yourselves that the only source of medicines or knowledge will come from regulated sites or sources. Note the liberater of knowledge has been the world wide web not a throw back to the UK in 1970. where information was gaurded and not available to the general public. lets not continue treating adults as compliant children.

JOHN MUNDAY, Locum pharmacist

You might have a point there Syd.

SydBashford Sold&Retired&DeRegistered, Community pharmacist

"The regulator ruled that the advert breached rule 12.12 of the Code of Advertising Practice, which prohibits POMs or POM treatments being advertised to the public" So if we can't advertise an erectile dysfunction service, surely that means we can't advertise the flu vaccination service either?

Chris ., Community pharmacist

Pharmacy2U accusing someone of being unethical..........heard it all now!

Dave Downham, Manager

Not unethical, illegal. A bit like tax evasion rather than tax avoidance.

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