False and misleading advertising on COVID-19

31 Mar 2020

Ahpra and National Boards recognise the vital role of registered health practitioners in treating and containing the COVID-19 emergency.

We recognise that registered health practitioners are working hard to keep people safe in a demanding and fast-changing environment.

A consequence of the current situation is greater public awareness of an individual’s own health and wellbeing, leading to many questions about treating and containing the disease. Accordingly, the public is likely to seek reassurance and answers about COVID-19 from their trusted health professional.

While the vast majority of health practitioners are responding professionally to the COVID-19 emergency and focusing on providing safe care, Ahpra and National Boards are seeing some examples of false and misleading advertising on COVID-19.

During these challenging times, it is vital that health practitioners only provide information about COVID-19 that is scientifically accurate and from authoritative sources, such as a state, territory or Commonwealth health department or the World Health Organization (WHO). According to these authoritative sources, there is currently no cure or evidence-based treatment or therapy which prevents infection by COVID-19 and work is currently underway on a vaccine.

Other than sharing health information from authoritative sources, registered health practitioners should not make advertising claims on preventing or protecting patients and health consumers from contracting COVID-19 or accelerating recovery from COVID-19. To do so involves risk to public safety and may be unlawful advertising. For example, we are seeing some advertising claims that spinal adjustment/manipulation, acupuncture and some products confer or boost immunity or enhance recovery from COVID-19 when there is no acceptable evidence in support.

Advertisers must be able to provide acceptable evidence of any claims made about treatments that benefit patients/health consumers. We will consider taking action against anyone found to be making false or misleading claims about COVID-19 in advertising. If the advertiser is a registered health practitioner, breaching advertising obligations is also a professional conduct matter which may result in disciplinary action, especially where advertising is clearly false, misleading or exploitative. There are also significant penalties for false and misleading advertising claims about therapeutic products under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.

Patients and health consumers should treat any advertising claims about COVID-19 cautiously and check authoritative sources for health information about COVID-19, such as state, territory and Commonwealth health departments.

As always, patients and health consumers should ask their practitioner for information to support any advertising claims before making decisions about treatment. Patients and health consumers should receive accurate and truthful messages so they can make the right choices about their health.

Information on advertising responsibilities, including use of acceptable evidence is available on the Ahpra website under Advertising resources.

About us

Ahpra works in partnership with 15 National Boards to regulate Australia’s 740,000 registered health practitioners. Together, our primary role is to protect the public and set the standards and policies that all registered health practitioners must meet.

For further information, call the Ahpra media line: (03) 8708 9200

 
 
Page reviewed 31/03/2020