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16 August 2017

Warnings sent over Voltaren, Panadol and Maxiclear

Commission says marketing likely to mislead.

Two pharmaceutical companies have received warning letters from the Commerce Commission over identical products marketed as being able to help with specific ailments.

We wrote about two of the products, Voltaren Emulgel and Volaten Osteo Gel, back in March last year. The commission agreed with us that Voltaren could be misleading people with its marketing of the products, which have identical formulas.

In its warning letter to manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, the commission said “if consumers purchased both products or read the information for each, they were likely to form the view that the products were different and treated different ailments”.

The commission said advertising Osteo Gel as a “new treatment” in 2011 was particularly concerning when the identical Emulgel had been available without a prescription since 2006. It said GlaxoSmithKline has now addressed its concerns by relabelling Osteo Gel with the statement “same effective formula as Emulgel” and adding the line on the Voltaren website.

GlaxoSmithKline was also warned about the marketing of some Panadol products. The following products had the same ingredients but were marketed as specially formulated:

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

AFT Pharmaceuticals was warned about some Maxiclear products:

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

The commission said AFT intended to introduce new packaging.

Nurofen’s maker Reckitt Benckiser had to pay $1 million here and about $6 million in Australia for its range of identical pain products marketed as being able to help with specific types of pain, such as migraines and period pain.

The commission said it would bring the warnings sent to GlaxoSmithKline and AFT to a court’s attention if the conduct continued.

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