Why remove pre-approval?
Pre-approval of advertisements aimed to increase compliance with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. However, it had substantial limitations. It only applied to advertisements for medicines, not medical devices, and only to those in ‘specified media’. The latter were traditional mass media channels, such as television, radio and newspapers. It did not include newer media such as the internet and pay television.
In addition, pre-approval of advertisements in different media were carried out by delegates from two industry associations: Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia (CHC) and Australian Self Medication Industry (now named Consumer Healthcare Products Australia (CHP Australia)). Decisions were not always consistent.
The 2015 Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation recommended that pre-approval of advertisments be stopped in favour of a more self-regulated regime coupled with industry education and stronger compliance powers against misleading advertising.
What’s the problem with removing pre-approval of advertisements?
Consumer protection will be reduced. It was pointed out that the majority of advertisements subjected to the old pre-approval system required changes, sometimes substantial, to make them Code compliant. That education campaigns had been conducted over many years but Code breaches still occurred. That financial penalties for breaches might not outweigh the profit that comes from non-compliant advertising.
So, will removing pre-approval of advertisements from 30 June 2020 produce a spike of non-compliant advertisements? Time will tell!
Will AdCheck (from CHP Australia) help?
AdCheck is a new independent advisory service provided by CHP Australia from 1 July 2020. It offers expert compliance checks for all forms of direct to consumer therapeutic goods advertising. The service can also provide training, as well as support, if an ad receives a complaint.
If deemed compliant the ad will be issued a unique AdCheck number. This number can be featured within the ad (like previous mandatory pre-approval number) so other stakeholders are aware it has been reviewed. External parties can submit a request to CHP Australia to verify this number and confirm the specific ad was reviewed by AdCheck.
Prevention is better than cure.
- APHC 2018 Contested Policy: Complementary Medicines and Advertising Reform
- Independent review: Therapeutic goods advertising
- Independent review: Consumer consultation