The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has dismissed four complaints regarding the advertising of certain medicines.

A doctor complained to the Agency after having a conversation with a Wyeth sales representative and taking issue with a statement in a detail aid for Effexor (venlafaxine), which implied incorrectly that it is the only antidepressant that can be used as a treatment for anxiety.

But the MHRA disagreed, as the statement is factually correct and was set in the context of a table detailing antidepressants and their indications. However, Wyeth was advised that it should not use this information out of context, and to ensure sales representatives are aware that doing so could be considered as misleading.

Wyeth itself complained to the Agency that a consumer advertising campaign for Reckitt Benckiser’s Nurofen contained the claim: “Targets pain twice as fast as standard Nurofen tablets (ibuprofen)” that was not supported by evidence. But again, the MHRA did not uphold the complaint, as Reckitt Benckiser provided pharmacokinetic evidence to support the claim.

Pfizer's complaint not upheld

Pfizer’s complaint focused on an advertisement for Nicorette 15mg Patch and Nicorette Freshmint 2mg Gum manufactured by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare (now part of Johnson & Johnson) published in the journal GP. The company said it was concerned that the claim “Nicorette combination therapy is up to 50% more effective than monotherapy at 12 weeks” was misleading. The MHRA, however, ruled that the claim is consistent with the summary product characteristics and is supported by the references cited in the advertisement.

The last issue was brought by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd and an anonymous individual about the contents of a website The complainants voiced concern that the website was promoting prescription-only medicines to the public, but the MHRA felt it was not necessary to take any action as the site claimed to have been “set up by an individual wishing to share his views and advice on obtaining treatment for age-related macular degeneration.”