Not to be outdone by other ad regulators, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has set out its stall for achieving more medicines advertising compliance. We report on its new guidance and some new case reports published on its website at
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, Tesco, and Netto Food Stores
December 2004 – February 2005
Pharmaceutical advertising watchdog The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency ("MHRA") is ramping up its regulatory act and promising a tougher approach following criticism by consumer groups for allegedly being too close to the companies it regulates and whose products it licenses.
In the last two months it has embarked on a new phase of "naming and shaming" advertisers which it has found to be breaking the rules governing pharmaceutical promotions. This is being done by way of publishing on its website every review of an advert that it conducts.
In February, the MHRA also published a new edition of its "Blue Guide" to advertising and promotion of medicines in the UK, to be found on its website www.mhra.gov.uk.
The guide is an invaluable resource for those wanting a clear picture of the regulatory environment for the marketing in the UK of pharmaceutical products, where different rules apply depending upon whether the promotion is aimed at medical professionals or the consumer.
Tesco and Netto named
On the naming and shaming front, those who have already appeared on the MHRA website include retailers Tesco and Netto Food Stores, both of whom fell foul of the rule against volume-based promotional offers such as "any two for …" or "buy one get one free" or "buy one get second half price."
In both the cases reported, the retailers had run multiple offers of "two packs for the price of X" on analgesic products. Upon being contacted by the MHRA both have undertaken not to conduct similar promotions in the future, since they may lead to unnecessary purchases of medicines and undermine the intention of the pack size restrictions that the Government introduced for the protection of public safety.
Why this matters:
This move on behalf of the UK's medicines licensor and advertising regulator makes the secretive position of the Financial Services Authority on publicising its case-handling activity even more anomalous. Sure enough, the FSA reports selectively on cases where big fines are handed out against non-compliant advertisers.
However, it is still prevented by statute from going public on the handling of all cases where a breach of the rules is suspected. Here at marketinglaw, we believe this is not a sustainable position and the MHRA's move to greater transparency will hopefully be a further spur to the FSA taking a similar approach and pushing for legislative change as necessary to enable it to do so.