New Zealand Law Society - Commission issues warnings to pharma firms over "twin" products

Commission issues warnings to pharma firms over "twin" products

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The Commerce Commission has warned GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare New Zealand Ltd and AFT Pharmaceuticals Ltd that the companies’ product packaging and marketing representations for some Voltaren, Panadol and Maxiclear products were likely to have breached the Fair Trading Act. 

The Commission investigated a range of “twin products” (listed below) which contained the same active ingredients but were marketed and packaged differently. 

Under the Fair Trading Act, traders are prohibited from making false or misleading representations about the nature, characteristics and suitability of their products. In these cases, the products claimed to treat specific ailments like osteoarthritis, back and neck pain, or sinus pain and congestion. However, they were no more effective as a treatment for the specified condition than the other product in each product pair.

“The products in each pair had the same active ingredients but were packaged and marketed for different therapeutic purposes. We concluded that consumers were likely to think that the products were different and treated separate specified ailments,” says Commissioner Anna Rawlings.

“We are satisfied with the changes the companies have made, or are in the process of making, in response to our concerns. This includes to their product ranges, packaging and websites.

“This will help consumers to use the information on the box to make informed choices about the products they need, which is especially important when it comes to healthcare products.”

The Commission will not be taking further action against the companies at this time but expects both to ensure that their products and packaging comply with the law. The Commission will take the warnings into account if the companies engage in similar conduct in future.

The GSK twin products were:

  • Voltaren Emulgel / Voltaren Osteo Gel
  • Panadol Osteo Caplets / Panadol Back & Neck Long Lasting (discontinued)
  • Panadol Rapid / Panadol Back & Neck Pain Relief (discontinued)
  • Panadol Cold & Flu Max + Decongestant / Panadol Sinus Pain & Congestion Relief (discontinued)

The AFT twin products were:

  • Maxiclear Cold & Nasal Relief / Maxiclear Hayfever & Sinus Relief
  • Maxiclear Cold & Flu Relief / Maxiclear Sinus & Pain Relief

Copies of the warning letters, which include images of the products, are available on the Commerce’s website.