TGA clears Clive Palmer’s coronavirus ‘cure’ advertisement

It was reported that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has dropped its investigation into newspaper advertisements taken out by the former federal politician Clive Palmer which said, ‘hydroxychloroquine was the best hope for those suffering COVID-19’.

Clive Palmer

An advertisement is defined in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 Subsection 3(1) as, ‘any statement, pictorial representation or design that is intended, whether directly or indirectly, to promote the use or supply of the goods, including where the statement, pictorial representation or design’.

In my opinion, the following statements on page 5 of Palmer’s 3-page advertisement, taken out in major Australian newspapers ( copied below), are clearly intended to promote the use of the drug:

  • ‘hydroxychloroquine was the best hope for those suffering COVID-19’ and
  • ‘the best treatment for its citizens should the worst occur’ and
  • ‘Mr Palmer said it was critical that the drug remained available in hospitals for those who needed it to treat COVID-19’.

These statements are inaccurate, misleading and not in accord with current scientific opinion.

For example, pages 6 and 7 of the advertisement titled, ‘COVID-19 Response and Action’ (copied below) fail to mention that the early French study that hyped hydroxychloroquine has been discredited. It fails to mention negative trials of the fact that serious adverse events emerged in other trials. See:

A number of trials are ongoing and until these have been peer-reviewed, published and replicated, my view is that it is unethical to promote this drug as Palmer has done. It will create false hope in the community and place pressure on medical practitioners to prescribe inappropriately. It also raises a serious question as to why the TGA dropped its investigation of this matter?

The TGA has apparently chosen to interpret the definition of advertising to mean ‘sale’ which, arguably, is not in accord with the Therapeutic Goods Act.

I have submitted a complaint to the TGA about this advertising (AC-TNBK7OQ6/2020). I have also asked for an explanation of the TGA’s interpretation of the Act in this case.

Update 15/05/2020

At a meeting of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Consultative Committee (TGACC) held on 14/05/2020, Adjunct Prof John Skerritt, Deputy Secretary, Department of Health explained why the TGA had dropped its investigation into Clive Palmer’s 3-page hydroxychloroquine advertisements that ran in major Australian newspapers from April 28 to May 2, 2020.

Prof  Skerritt said, ‘Taken as a whole, the TGA felt the advertisements primarily promoted Mr Palmer’s efforts in donating hydroxychloroquine rather than hydroxychlorquine itself. The TGA accepted this was a line-ball decision.  

A key factor for TGA was that the product was going into the national medical stockpile and could only be released for clinical trials or use by doctors on the decision of the Chief Medical Officer or Deputy Chief Medical Officer.

It was noted the wording about the drug in the advertisement reflected careful legal crafting. In response to reports of inappropriate off-label prescribing of hydroxychloroquine the TGA placed prescribing restrictions on the drug on 24 March 2020; only certain specialists can now prescribe hydroxychloroquine to new patients.’

Dr Harvey reiterated that inaccurate and misleading statements in the advertisements about hydroxychloroquine were likely to create false hope in the community and had placed pressure on medical practitioners to prescribe inappropriately

See also:

The Age, Saturday, May 2, 2020, Page 5
The Age, Saturday, May 2, 2020, Page 6
The Age, Saturday, May 2, 2020, Page 7
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About Dr Ken Harvey

Public Health Physician, Medical activitist
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2 Responses to TGA clears Clive Palmer’s coronavirus ‘cure’ advertisement

  1. James Semaj says:

    So it appears our TGA isn’t as squeaky clean as many tend to believe!

    Strange that both Palmer & Twiggy Forrest or any of there known entities, have not been approved or are named on any known approved supplier lists by the TGA, yet are somehow allowed to bypass all legislation. Everyone else has to jump through hoops & pay upwards of hundreds of thousands to supply anything to Australians!

    Customs should have seized and detained & destroyed these drugs at the border! Yet they were allowed through, probably without paying any importation taxes or dutys too.
    But then for the TGA to turn a blind eye to its own stringent rules and regulations! That every other Australian importer or Manufacturer must obide by.

    Is this drug even safe? I guess we won’t even known!

    nor are they on the TGA approved lists to supply medical devices!
    Such as Corona test kits & other medical supplies which has already been proven to not be of medical grade!

    It’s obvious that our TGA isn’t independent, and has been corrupted by the LNP and the Minister for Health Greg Hunt who been known to pull strings for his mates and these high profile Liberal Party donors!

    I get what you are doing here, but the TGA is no longer what it used to be and is another fraudulent & corrupt government entity! Where the $$$ do the talking.

    The TGA needs an independent overseer to ensure its integrity doesn’t become comprised.


  2. A M Katha says:

    The response of the TGA demonstrates very clearly the Ostrich attitude (appropriate for Australia!). Very narrow reading of what public health is and is totally oblivious to what is harmful to the general public.

    Most regulatory authorities in high income countries and their experts are able to express their opinions freely even in the idiocracy that is the USA. Australia seems to be the exception.

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