An advertising campaign for vardenafil encouraged men with erection difficulties to seek treatment. The advertisement included the product logo and the name of the company. The imagery, of an upright banana, was also used in the advertising to health professionals. As part of this parallel campaign, doctors and pharmacists were informed that the company would offer a money-back guarantee to patients.
I made a complaint to Medicines Australia as I believed that the advertising to the public would stimulate demand for a particular product and the money-back guarantee could be seen as an inducement. Complaints were also made by two pharmacists and the Australian Consumers' Association.
The Code of Conduct Committee considered my complaint within a month and sent me its decision within six weeks. The ruling was in an extract of the minutes of the Committee's meeting. This showed that there had been a severe breach of the Code of Conduct, but I was asked to keep the ruling confidential in case there was an appeal. As there was no appeal the complaint was finalised and details appear in the Code of Conduct Annual Report.1
The Code of Conduct Committee considered that the advertising campaign could have breached nine sections of the Code, however only one breach was confirmed. A majority of the Committee considered that the campaign brought discredit to the industry. This was not because the banana images were in poor taste, but because a money-back guarantee was considered to decrease the value of prescription medicines.
The Code of Conduct Committee did not fine the company for the severe breach, but ordered it to immediately cease the promotion offering the money-back guarantee. Corrective letters had to be sent to all health professionals who received the promotion and corrective advertisements had to be placed in health professional journals which had published advertisements about the money-back guarantee.