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Companies warned against 'viral' marketing


Queensland therapeutic companies have been warned against using the coronavirus outbreak as a potential marketing tool for their businesses.

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As COVID-19 forces Australians into their own homes,  companies are being issued a firm warning to follow the restrictions applied by the Therapeutic Goods Act (TGA) and the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, in advertising their products.

Before referencing COVID-19 in any advertising, article or publication in relation to therapeutic goods, organisations need to check their product is not restricted by the Therapeutic Goods Act and the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code.

The Code restricts references to serious diseases, specific regulations, and the requirements for treatment by doctor or health professional – which this virus falls into.

Failing to adhere to the law could result in organisations being hit with civil litigation or criminal prosecution.

Advertisers and companies are now seeking legal advice as to where they sit in regards to the TGA, which Gadens Lawyers Partner, Rachel Sciasia, said was absolutely necessary.

“Any representation that is in relation to the virus, anything that says it helps in the treatment of it – needs to be approved by TGA and have appropriate evidence,” Sciascia said.

“We have seen medical diagnostic companies, as well as internet platforms where ads are ending up not from the vendors themselves – people can be unaware and be jumping on the bandwagon.

“If you are trying to take advantage of the pandemic and specifically refer to it, then you are held by the restrictions and in relation to advertising by the TGA and the Code.”

Sciascia said it was disappointing that organisations were trying to take advantage of the current pandemic but not unexpected in times like this.

This crackdown comes as self-testing coronavirus kits have hit the Australian market, with would-be suppliers distributing home-tests that can provide incorrect results.

Supplying self-testing kits is illegal in Australia and these tests can provide false negatives if they are not from the approved diagnostic tests regulated by the TGA.

Sciascia’s advice is if they’re not the approved diagnostic tests, then suppliers are breaking the law.

“Testing for serious diseases like COVID-19 needs to be done with relevant healthcare professionals.

“There are masssive ramifications, it will enable people to think they are negative for the virus and remove the social distancing – thinking that they’ll be ok and not taking precautions.”

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