Last week the ASA upheld complaints against three private medical clinics touting the use of IV drips to help protect against Covid-19. Not to be outdone, Trump also came up with a novel idea to prevent Covid-19... by taking a shot of disinfectant.  

Health Warning: Before you reach for the Domestos, do NOT try this one at home folks. 

Regulatory Warning: Making these types of claims or recommendations in your advertisements will not be acceptable.  

These rulings demonstrate the ASA's new focus on fast-tracking complaints about adverts exploiting health fears surrounding the pandemic (as commented on previously in this blog by Alex Meloy). 

All of the claims included a variation of the following: 

...boost your immune system to help prevent and protect yourself against Covid-19. 

Some of the claims cited were direct claims (e.g. help protect and prevent against the new strand of virus) and others were implied. Nevertheless, all of the adverts were found to be making medicinal claims for unlicensed products, which is not just a breach of the CAP Code but also medicine regulations. 

To recap, a medicinal product is any substance (or combination of substances): (i) presented for treating or preventing disease or; (ii) which may be used on humans with a view to restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions, or to making a medical diagnosis.

Typically if any advertiser makes a direct or implied claim that their product can 'prevent', 'treat', 'cure' or 'fix' any disease, this will be considered a medicinal claim and will fall into the first limb above. If an advertiser wishes to make a medicinal claim, they need to ensure that they have appropriate authorisation to do so. These advertisers did not.  

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are keen to underline that no medicinal products have been licensed for the prevention or treatment of Coronavirus/Covid-19.

To demonstrate how serious these types of claims are being taken, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and MHRA have issued an enforcement notice to advertisers of IV drips (which can be found here). From Monday 4th May,  they will 'begin targeted enforcement, with the aid of monitoring technology, to find problem ads for removal or sanction'. Therefore, advertisers of IV drips (or any other product making claims in respect of treating or preventing Covid-19) should review that enforcement notice and amend their advertising accordingly. You have been warned.