ASA rules against advertising of injectable vitamins

19 May 2020

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a decision to ban a clinic’s marketing materials advertising injectable vitamin D and vitamin B12.

A promotional email from an aesthetic clinic in Manchester had the subject line, ‘40% Off! In The Fight Against Viruses!’. Text in the body of the email stated, “It’s Time To Boost Your Immunity! In the fight against viruses! Book in for your vitamin d & b12 shots! Supports your immune system, lung function and aids faster recovery from illness & viruses!”, which was followed by pricing information.

The complainant challenged whether the ad breached the Code because it promoted prescription-only medicines (POMs).

According to the ASA, all licensed forms of injectable vitamin D and injectable vitamin B12 are classified as POMs, which cannot be advertised to the general public as they are prohibited by the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (HMRs) and are reflected in CAP Code rule 12.12.

The ASA also assessed the specific claims made in the advert. The authority stated that in the context of a global pandemic of COVID-19, consumers were likely to understand that ‘viruses’ included coronavirus. The ad therefore gave the impression to recipients that the vitamin D and vitamin B12 injections being sold were effective in helping to prevent or treat COVID-19. However, neither the vitamin D or vitamin B12 medicinal products were indicated for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

The ASA ruled that the ad promoted POMs to the general public and breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 12.11 and 12.12 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products), therefore the ad must not appear again in its current form. 

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