Pharma firms told off over misleading packaging, advertising

  • 17/08/2017
The Commerce Commission says the companies have breached the Fair Trading Act. Photo credit: Getty

The manufacturers of several painkiller products are under fire for misleading the public, and the consumer watchdog is pleased to hear that they've been given a telling off.

The Commerce Commission has cracked down on Voltaren, Panadol and Maxiclear because the ranges claim to target different areas of pain when they actually contain the same ingredients.

Sue Chetwin from Consumer NZ says the companies knew about this.

"These are very big, sophisticated companies. They are multinationals. I think they deliberately set out to do this sort of thing. This is not somebody in the marketing department who's gone mad."

The Commerce Commission says it's a breach of the Fair Trading Act. Ms Chetwin says the commission could have gone a step further.

"In some respects we would have quite liked it if they'd done a bit more - maybe even fine them."

The companies say they will change their marketing and packaging, and some of the identical products have been discontinued.

"This will help consumers to use the information on the box to make informed choices about the products they need, which is especially important when it comes to healthcare products," said Commerce Commissions spokeswoman Anna Rawlings.

Nurofen came under fire for the same reason in 2015.

The products in question were:

  • Voltaren Emulgel / Voltaren Osteo Gel
  • Panadol Osteo Caplets / Panadol Back & Neck Long Lasting (discontinued)
  • Panadol Rapid / Panadol Back & Neck Pain Relief (discontinued)
  • Panadol Cold & Flu Max + Decongestant / Panadol Sinus Pain & Congestion Relief (discontinued)
  • Maxiclear Cold & Nasal Relief / Maxiclear Hayfever & Sinus Relief
  • Maxiclear Cold & Flu Relief / Maxiclear Sinus & Pain Relief.

Emulgel and Osteo Gel producer GlaxoSmithKline argued the two products were different "although it has the same active and inactive ingredients" because the packaging had different usage instructions and they were marketed at different demographics.