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AUTH/2930/1/17 - Health professional consultant to a pharmaceutical company v Johnson & Johnson

Case number:AUTH/2930/1/17
Case ref:Health professional consultant to a pharmaceutical company v Johnson & Johnson
Description:Nicorette advertisement
Breach:Breach Clauses 7.2 and 7.10
Appeal:No appeal
Status:Breach ruled, case report pending
Review:Published in the August 2017 Review
Case Summary:

​A complaint was received in a private capacity from a health professional who stated that he/ she worked as a consultant to a pharmaceutical company.

The complaint concerned an online advertisement for Nicorette (nicotine) issued by Johnson & Johnson published in Pulse.

The complainant provided a screenshot of a banner advertisement. It included ‘Nicorette. Do something incredible’. The complainant did not believe that the word ‘incredible’ was suitable. This information did not appear to be balanced and was exaggerated. The claim was taken directly from material aimed at the general public and it appeared that Johnson & Johnson had not undertaken a suffciently robust review when translating to promotion aimed at health professionals.

The detailed response from Johnson & Johnson is given below.

The Panel noted that the banner advertisement continuously revolved through four banners, one after the other, over 10 seconds. The statement at issue ‘Do something incredible’ appeared immediately adjacent to the Nicorette product logo on the frst, second and fourth banner and in the Panel’s view would be read as describing a quality of the product. The statement was unqualifed on banners 1 and 4, but appeared adjacent to the product logo and question ‘HOW DO YOU EMPOWER THEM TO QUIT FOR GOOD?’ on the second banner. The third banner read ‘Combination NRT is 43% more effective than patch alone’ which Johnson & Johnson stated referred to combination NRT in general, all brands and formulations; the Panel considered that some readers might nonetheless not unreasonably associate that claim with Nicorette given the adjacent prominent picture of Nicorette product packs and the claim ‘Nothing beats Nicorette dual support’ on that banner.

The Panel did not agree with Johnson & Johnson’s submission that the statement in question ‘Do something incredible’ related to the focus of the banners ie how do you empower patients to quit for good and that the health professional could make an informed opinion of the therapeutic value of Nicorette in the context of a quit attempt. Johnson & Johnson also submitted that a patient’s achievement in quitting smoking was incredible and not the Nicorette brand. The Panel considered that the diffculty smokers had in quitting would be well understood by the audience and that success would not unreasonably be considered to be an incredible feat. However, whether one considered the frst, second and fourth banners individually or the cumulative effect of all four the Panel considered that the implication was that the statement in question related to a feature of Nicorette, that the product itself had incredible features and/or that health professionals would be doing something incredible by prescribing it. The implication was misleading and exaggerated and breaches of the Code ruled.