As it has been demonstrated in practice, legal errors in advertising can happen to the best of us. Recently, it was Johnson & Johnson that experienced this first hand. Yesterday, the company “Johnson & Johnson Poland” stopped advertising a medicinal product named “Sudafed” promoted by the following slogan: “condition of head cold” or “quick relief for the head cold”.
The aforementioned slogans gave a severe headache to… the Chief Pharmaceutical Inspector who in his decision ordered their discontinuance.
A general rule in advertising medicinal products is the prohibition of misleading consumers and the obligation of the objective presentation of a medicinal product and information about its rational use. Moreover, the Polish pharmaceutical law prohibits advertising medicinal products that contain information contradicting the accepted summary of the product’s characteristics.
As was indicated by the Inspector, general medical literature does not acknowledge a disease unit known as a “head cold”. Johnson & Johnson argued that the word “head cold” provided in the slogan was introduced to “depict and accessibly present to the patient the possibility of using the product when the cold afflicts the head or upper respiratory tract”. It was additionally specified that the alleged condition of head cold should be regarded as a colloquial term for certain symptoms of the common cold and not as a separate disease unit.
In the opinion of the Inspector, the existence of a condition known as head cold is not supported by the accepted summary of product characteristics. As was indicated above, advertising medicinal products contradicting the summary of product characteristics, especially metaphorically, is inadmissible.
Despite the decision being immediately enforceable, Johnson & Johnson still has a chance to submit a motion to review the case within 14 days from the date of serving the decision.
The entire decision is available for download on the website of the Chief Pharmaceutical Inspector – link.