Multiple breaches of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code by companies advertising weight loss products

The Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018, s.26(3)(a) says:

An advertisement for therapeutic goods containing any claim relating to weight management must not feature individuals in images or visual representations

This version of the Code took effect on 1 January 2019. The TGA noted that they would show discretion about its enforcement for the first 6-months of 2019.

In a complaint sent to the TGA on 29 July 2019 (AC-MBNGMHNQ/2019) I documented 103 advertisements, from 35 advertisers, concerning 19 products that breach this section of the Code (and many others). One example is appended.

Numerous previous complaints about weight loss products had been submitted to the TGA on 6 July 2018 (AC-GBKDH2XG/2018) and 16 August 2018 (AC-NJ15VLQ9/2018). To-date, no outcome has yet been published by the TGA.

Meanwhile, misleading claims for complementary medicine weight loss products continue, invariably using imagery of slim, svelte bodies, despite this also being a breach of the current Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code.

In 1989, 34% of Australians were categorised as overweight and obese, in 2018 that figure has increased to 67%. Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases. It’s estimated to cost the economy $8.6 billion (2011-12).

Concerns about shonky complementary medicine weight loss products were initially published in 2008. By 2018, complementary medicine weight loss products accounted for 8.7% of the total market, or $430m million in sales.

The overweight and obese are a vulnerable and increasing population and such people are inevitably attracted to products promising a “quick fix”. It is particularly reprehensible that misleading and deceptive claims for these products continue to be made as they are likely to divert consumers from more evidence-based weight loss programs as well as waste their money.

In 2017 the National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions (NSFCC) recognised obesity as a chronic disease and specifically named ‘industry’ and ‘all levels of government’ as part of the solution.

It appears that both the complementary medicine industry and the TGA have abdicated their responsibility to assist the NSFCC and control the unethical promotion of weight loss products.

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About Dr Ken Harvey

Public Health Physician, Medical activitist
This entry was posted in Advertising, Complementary medicine, Pharmaceutical Promotion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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