THE ADVERTISING OF MEDICINES AND TREATMENTS
(British Code of Standards, 4th edition: January 1958)
This Code has the support of the following organisations: The Newspaper Proprietors Association, The Newspaper Society, The Periodical Proprietors Association, The Proprietary Association of Great Britain, The London Poster Advertising Association, The Solus Outdoor Advertising Association, The Advertising Association, The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, The British Poster Advertising Association, The Screen Advertising Association, The Independent Television Companies. The Code has been adopted by the Advisory Committee of the Independent Television Authority set up under the Television Act, 1954, Section 8 (2) (b).
The Code has been drafted for the guidance of advertisers, manufacturers, distributors, advertising agencies, publishers and suppliers of various advertising media. The paragraphs are arranged and indexed for easy reference. It is important that they should be regarded as setting forth the minimum standards to be observed by the parties concerned.
The harm to the individual that may result from exaggerated, misleading or unwarranted claims justifies the adoption of a very high standard and the inclusion of considerable detail in a Code designed to guide those who are concerned with this form of advertising.
Newspapers and other advertising media are urged not to accept advertisements in respect of any product or treatment from any advertiser or advertising agency who disregards the provisions of this Code in any form of advertising or publicity relating to that product or treatment.
The advance of medical science may influence the view to be taken of the efficacy of medicines, products, appliances or treatments and, therefore, this Code will be subject to periodic review.
The provisions of this Code do not apply to an advertisement published by or under the authority of a Government Ministry or Department, nor to an advertisement published only in so far as is reasonably necessary to bring it to the notice of registered medical or dental practitioners, registered pharmacists or registered nurses.
Section I General Principles
1. Cure. No advertisement should contain a claim to cure any ailment or symptoms of ill-health, nor should an advertisement contain a word or expression used in such a form or context as to mean in the positive sense the extirpation of any ailment, illness or disease.
2. Illnesses, etc., properly requiring medical attention. No advertisement should contain any matter which can be regarded as an offer of a medicine or product for, or advice relating to the treatment of, serious diseases, complaints, conditions, indications or symptoms which should rightly receive the attention of a registered medical practitioner. (See also Sections II and III.)
3. Misleading or exaggerated claims. No advertisement should contain any matter which directly or by implication misleads or departs from the truth as to the composition, character or action of the medicine or treatment advertised or as to its suitability for the purpose for which it is recommended
4. Appeals to fear. No advertisement should be calculated to induce fear on the part of the reader that he is suffering, or may without treatment suffer, or suffer more severely, from an ailment, illness or disease.
5. Competitions. No advertisement should contain any prize competition or similar scheme. It should be noted that such advertisements may constitute an offence under Section 26 of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934.
6. Diagnosis or Treatment by Correspondence. No advertisement should offer to diagnose, by correspondence, diseases, conditions or any symptoms of ill-health in a human being; or request from any person a statement of his or any other person’s symptoms of ill-health with a view to advising as to or providing for treatment of such conditions of ill-health by correspondence. Nor should any advertisement offer to treat by correspondence any ailment, illness, disease, or symptoms thereof in a human being.
7. Disparaging References. No advertisement should directly or by implication, disparage the products, medicines or treatments of another advertiser or manufacturer, or registered medical practitioners or the medical profession.
8. Money-back offers. No advertisement should offer to refund money paid.
9. College, Clinic, Institute, Laboratory. No advertisement should contain these or similar terms unless an establishment corresponding with the description used does in fact exist.
10. Doctor, Hospitals, etc. No advertisement should contain any reference to doctors or hospitals, whether British or foreign, unless such reference can be substantiated by independent evidence and can properly be used in the manner proposed.
No advertisement should contain in the name of a product the term ‘Doctor’ or ‘Dr.’ unless the product were so named prior to 1st January, 1944.
11. Products offered particularly to women. No advertisement of products, medicines or treatments for disorders or irregularities peculiar to women should contain the following or similar expressions which may imply that the product, medicine or treatment advertised can be effective in inducing miscarriage:
‘Female Pills’, ‘Not to be used in cases of pregnancy,’ ‘The stronger the remedy the more effective it is,’ ‘Never known to fail.’
12. Illustrations. No advertisement should contain any illustration which by itself or in combination with words used in connection therewith is likely to convey a misleading impression, or if the reasonable inference to be drawn from such advertisement infringes any of the provisions of this Code.
13. Exaggerated copy. No advertisement should contain copy which is exaggerated by reason of the improper use of words, phrases or methods of presentation, e.g. the use of the words ‘magic, magical, miracle, miraculous.’
14. ‘Natural’ Remedies. No advertisement should claim or suggest, contrary to the fact, that the article advertised is in the form in which it occurs in nature or that its value lies in its being a ‘natural’ product.
15. Special claims. No advertisement should contain any reference which is calculated to lead the public to assume that the article, product, medicine or treatment advertised has some special property or quality which is in fact unknown or unrecognised.
16. Sexual Weakness. Premature Ageing. Loss of Virility. No advertisement should claim that the product, medicine or treatment advertised will promote sexual virility or be effective in treating sexual weakness, or habits associated with sexual excess or indulgence, or any ailment, illness or disease associated with those habits.
In particular, such terms as ‘premature ageing,’ ‘loss of virility’ will be regarded as conditions for which medicines, products, appliances or treatment may not be advertised.
17. Slimming, Weight Reduction or Limitation, or Figure Control. No advertisement should offer any product or treatment for slimming, weight reduction or limitation, or figure control if the taking or using of the product or following the course of treatment is likely to lead to harmful effects.
18. Tonic. The use of this expression in advertisements should not imply that the product or medicine can be used in the treatment of sexual weakness.
19. Testimonials. No statement or implication should be allowed to appear in a testimonial which would not be permitted in the text of the advertisement. In any case no advertisement should contain a testimonial other than one limited to the actual views of the writer, nor any testimonial given by a doctor other than a registered British medical practitioner unless it is obvious in the advertisement that the writer is not a registered British medical practitioner.
20. Hypnosis. No advertisement should contain any offer to diagnose or treat complaints or conditions by hypnosis.
21. Products offered for baldness. No advertisement should claim or imply that the product, medicine, or treatment advertised will do more than arrest the loss of hair, but claims to restore lost hair may be permitted provided that they refer only to cases of temporary baldness.
22. Hæmorrhoids. No advertisement should offer products for the treatment of haemorrhoids unless the following warning notice appears with the directions for use on the container itself or its labels:
‘Persons who suffer from haemorrhoids are advised to consult a doctor.’
Section 2 Restrictions Imposed by Statute
1. Cancer The Cancer Act, 1939, makes it an offence to take part in the publication of any advertisement which contains an offer to treat any person for cancer, to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice calculated to lead to its use in the treatment of cancer.
2. Abortion. The Pharmacy and Medicines Act, 1941, makes it an offence to take part in the publication of any advertisement referring to any article in terms which are calculated to lead to the use of the article for procuring the miscarriage of women.
3. Bright’s Disease, Cataract, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Fits, Glaucoma, Locomotor Ataxy, Paralysis, Tuberculosis. The Pharmacy and Medicines Act, 1941, makes it an offence to take part in the publication of an advertisement referring to any article in terms which are calculated to lead to the use of that article for the purpose of the treatment of these diseases.
Note. — Bright’s Disease is sometimes referred to as ‘Nephritis,’ Epilepsy as ‘Falling Sickness,’ and Tuberculosis as ‘Phthisis,’ ‘Consumption,’ or ‘Wasting Disease.’
4. Venereal Diseases. The Venereal Diseases Act, 1917, makes it an offence to advertise in any way any preparation or substance of any kind as a medicine for the prevention, cure or relief of venereal diseases.
The above prohibitions do not apply in the case of technical journals which circulate among persons of the classes mentioned in the respective Acts. It is permissible, for example, for advertisements to appear in technical journals intended for circulation mainly among registered medical practitioners, registered pharmacists and nurses (except in the case of (4) above, where no provision is made in the Venereal Diseases Act, for advertising in journals circulating among nurses).
The foregoing is a very broad outline of the effects of the relevant section of the respective Acts. For further and more detailed information, reference should be made to the Acts.
Section 3 Examples of Diseases, Illnesses or Conditions for which Medicines, Treatments, Products or Appliances may not be advertised
(See Section I, Clause 2)
No advertisement should refer to any medicine, product, appliance or advice in terms calculated to lead to its use for the treatment of any of the following illnesses or conditions:
amenorrhoea; anæmia (pernicious); ankles, diseased; arterio sclerosis; artery troubles; arthritis; asthma (a), barber’s rash; bleeding disease; blood disease; blood pressure; breasts, diseases of the; carbuncles; cardiac symptoms, heart troubles; convulsions; dermatitis; diseased ankles; disseminated sclerosis; ears (any structural or organic defect of the auditory system); enlarged glands; erysipelas; eyes (any structural or organic defect of the optical system); fungus infections (b); gallstones; glands, enlarged; goitre; heart troubles, cardiac symptoms; impetigo; indigestion, where the reference is to chronic or persistent; insomnia, where the reference is to chronic or persistent; itch; kidneys, diseases of the; lazy eye; leg troubles; legs, bad, painful; lupus; menopausal ailments; obesity; osteoarthritis; pernicious anaemia; phlebitis; prolapse; psoriasis—except where the reference is confined to relief from the effects of the complaint; purpura; pyorrhœa; rheumatism, where the reference is to chronic or persistent; rheumatoid arthritis; ringworm; scabies; skin diseases, where the reference is to ‘all’ or ‘most’ skin diseases, or skin ailments in general; Sleeplessness, where the reference is to chronic or persistent; squint; sycosis; thrombosis; ulcers: duodenal, gastric, pyloric, stomach; varicose veins (c); whooping cough (d).
(1) It is made clear in the advertisement that the medicine, treatment, product or appliance advertised is only for the alleviation of an attack of asthma.
(2) The advertisement contains a recommendation that sufferers should seek medical advice.
(b) The prohibition does not apply to advertisements of products for the treatment of Athlete’s Foot.
(c) Advertisements for elastic hosiery are permissible provided that no claim is made that the product has any beneficial effect on the condition.
(d) This restriction does not apply where the reference to whooping cough appears only on labels or in literature issued with the product and is limited to offering the product for alleviating the symptoms of whooping cough.