Even the biggest of retailers can let non compliant promotions slip through the net sometimes, as this case involving enforcement of the Medicines Advertising Regulations 1994 shows.
Topic: Advertising and Promotions of Medicines
Who: Tesco plc
Where: MHRA Headquarters, London
When: 11 April 2006
A promotional offer on "over the counter" medicines by the supermarket retailer, Tesco, has been withdrawn following complaints to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency ("MHRA"). MHRA is the government agency responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices are acceptably safe. It is also responsible for ensuring that the statutory measures regulating the advertising and promotions of medicines is strictly adhered to.
On 20 March 2006, both a community pharmacist and a member of the public complained to the MHRA about a promotion in Tesco stores. The complainants alleged that a packet of eight Nurofen Tablets was being given away for free when a pack of Nurofen heat patches was purchased.
The MHRA upheld the complaints. They ruled that the promotion was in breach of Regulation 12 of the Medicines Advertising Regulations 1994 which prohibits the selling or supplying of any medicinal products for a promotional purpose. In effect, this prevented Tesco from giving away any medicine for free as part of a promotion. As a result of the decision, the promotion was immediately withdrawn from all Tesco stores. Tesco cited an administrative oversight as a reason for the error. The promotion was mistakenly loaded on to the company's computer system as a free offer rather than a discount.
Why this matters:
The promotion and advertising of medicinal products is closely scrutinised by the statutory regulators and self regulatory bodies to ensure that EC and UK Medicines law is fully complied with. Retailers should be acutely aware of their responsibilities to the consumer when advertising and promoting their medicinal products.
Jeremy Mean, the MHRA policy group manager, has some forthright opinions on the matter. In light of the Tesco ruling, he stated: "Medicines can have powerful effects and should not be given away like sweets. Companies can compete on price but promotions that include free medicines are not acceptable."
The MHRA's "The Blue Guide: Advertising and Promotions of medicines in the UK" provides an explanation of the regulations with regard to the advertising and promotion of medicines. The guide can be downloaded from the MHRA website (www.mhra.gov.uk)