Product Compliance

There are many rules and regulations that come with running a pharmacy. While Storbie makes it easier to get your website off the ground with useful content, you need to regularly check through your website to ensure it is meeting regulations. We reached out to Emi Gosling from e-MAS Medicine Advertising Service some useful tips!

e-MAS Medicine Advertising Service is a specialist pharmacy medicine advertising service that provides regulatory guidance on the advertising of therapeutic goods, medicines and health professional services.
Medicines are different from other product pharmacies may also sell. Advertising rules are different too. Whether in-store or online, you need to be mindful of these rules, and be vigilant about:

• Audience (the customer in need)
• Materials provided by third parties – are they aware of how you will use the content? Do they know rules?
• Own materials developed – are you across all the rules?
• User generated content (reviews and social posts) - also advertising)

Pharmacy advertising comes with its own headaches. Read on to find out how to promote pain relief products and avoid the stings of the law.

If you’ve been trapped in the office, lost under a pile of paperwork you may have missed pharmacy businesses in the news lately. Hefty fines have been dealt to retailers, along with warnings of further action if offences are repeated.

Front page news in the Australian and Sydney Morning Herald have also shared industry’s response to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) guidance on how medicines can be advertised within the strict Australian legislation. Not only are these rules strict, but they are also complicated.

Pharmacists understand why the tight controls on medicine supply are in place, but often wonder ‘Why is it so challenging to advertise medicines?’

The shelves are brimming with products. The website is loaded with images and valuable information. You’ve listened to a few marketing podcasts and have even starred in some video content for the pharmacy’s social pages. So why not just click that button and make it all live? Because it’s never as simple as that in pharmacy.

Medicines are not like usual items of commerce. A new computer program to better present sales forecasts could save your job. An asthma inhaler could save a child’s life. And it’s for this reason there are additional levels of control when it comes to promoting medicines.

People caring for themselves or a loved one rely heavily on information to help them decide what’s right for them. They look for that information online, consulting Dr Google, their social media feeds and hopefully some reliable sources too. Inevitably they will also come across advertising content, and desperate for the best solution, can be especially susceptible to its influence.

So why all those headlines? If advertising medicines is allowed and there are rules in place, surely it can’t be too hard, right?

Different rules apply when advertising medicines compared to foods, cosmetics or other general consumers goods. Consumer laws apply universally and in addition there are controls to ensure medicine advertising is conducted in a way that promotes safe and sensible use of products and does not mislead the consumer.

Do you know all the rules? Do all of your suppliers? What about your content writers? Who is on top of regulatory updates and changes?

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“Perhaps it’s worth dealing with the regulatory headaches first, ensuring your store and website meet all the requirements. Use a provider experienced in dealing with pharmacy, who will help you ensure you are selling headache tablets instead of needing them yourself.”
Emi Gosling
e-Mas Medicine Advertising Service

Tips to ward off any headaches …

• Be aware that "advertising” encompasses any activity undertaken to promote the use, purchase or supply of a good. This can include traditional advertising: printed catalogue ads or posters, broadcast TV or radio commercials, and also digital forms including websites, social media posts, blogs and even newsletters. If the audience is compelled to try, buy or use the product it is likely to be deemed advertising.

• A medicinal claim - a claim that a product can treat or prevent disease, injury, ailment or adverse condition - can only be made in an ad for a product that is classified as a medicine under the advertising rules. All ads for the product then must conform with the approved and permitted indication and label claims.

• Medicines advertising rules include, amongst other things: not suggesting the products effects are guaranteed or absolutely safe with no side-effects, not using health professionals or celebrities to endorse the medicine, not addressing children and not implying medicine will is treat a condition for which medical supervision should be sought – serious conditions.

• Prescription-only medicines cannot be advertised to the public.

• Advertising for herbal medicines and herbal alternatives must include advice to consult a health professional if symptoms persist. If the ad is for a traditional herbal medicinal product, it must include a statement referencing the fact the product is “based on traditional use only”. The material cannot infer evidence for the product’s efficacy is based on scientific or clinical trial data.

Of course since pharmacy advertising is not confined to medicines and products, there are also strict rules for advertising professional services. Pharmacies offer a range of testing, monitoring and health services and care must be taken to avoid claiming any treatment offered can “cure”, “prevent” or “heal” conditions.

In the instance where a therapeutic product inherently forms part of the service (e.g. vaccinations), take care to ensure advertising complies with the legislative requirements for advertising therapeutic goods.

Those headlines say it all - there are provisions for serious penalties for advertising noncompliance. Perhaps it’s worth dealing with the regulatory headaches first, ensuring your store and website meet all the requirements. Use a provider experienced in dealing with pharmacy, who will help you ensure you are selling headache tablets instead of needing them yourself.

Ensuring your online presence is compliant helps to make sure your customers are getting the right information while preventing any headaches coming from organisations such as the TGA.

Want to learn more about pharmacy compliance? Check out the e-MAS Medicine Advertising Service website here!

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