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Unlawful eye health ads prompt public retraction

28/02/2018By Matthew Woodley
The Australian-owned manufacturer of an eye health supplement has been forced to issue a public retraction and withdraw advertising after it breached the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code.

The order came after the Complaints Resolution Panel (CRP) found advertising for the Stiltec-manufactured supplement Macutec was unlawful, misleading, and unverified. According to the full retraction posted on Macutec’s website, the company’s advertisements unlawfully made claims regarding the product’s supposed benefits in relation to macular degeneration.

“Advertisements for the Macutec product range, which we published on this website, our Facebook page and our Twitter page should not have been published,” the retraction states.

“In the advertisements we unlawfully made claims that the products are scientifically based on clinical trials and have benefits in relation the serious eye disease macular degeneration. We encouraged consumers to self-diagnose and self-treat this serious disease and implied healthcare professional endorsement for the products.

“A complaint about the advertisement was recently upheld by the Complaints Resolution Panel. We provided no evidence whatsoever to support the claims of benefit we made for the product, and the Panel found that the claims were unlawful, misleading, and unverified and breached the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code.”

However, while accepting that the social media advertisements were unlawful, Stiltec attempted to explain the breach by claiming the advertisements had be “driven by an overseas partner.” It also stated that other healthcare professionals and a consumer had initially posted the material, before it was reposted under the Macutec account, and that processes had been established to prevent this from occurring in future.

Additionally, Stiltec disputed the claim that the statement “Macutec Essentials has been developed with significant input from some of Australia’s leading experts” implied professional medical endorsement of its products. It instead argued that it referred to the “formulation expertise” involved with its development and manufacture.

However, despite Stiltec’s assertions, the CRP upheld every aspect of the complaint and ordered the company to keep the retraction on the homepage of its website and social media pages for 90 days.

The full CRP panel determination document can be read here.

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