The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code does not apply to “claims in marketing communications in media addressed only to medical, dental, veterinary or allied practitioners that relate to those practitioners’ expertise”. This exemption relates to specific claims rather than ads in their entirety and only where the media the ad appears in is addressed to these practitioners. The rationale behind this is that health professionals have the technical knowledge to assess for themselves whether claims related to their expertise are misleading.
Think about the audience
‘Practitioners’ is likely to include doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, optometrists, midwives, veterinarians, various types of therapists and other medical or health professionals. As a result claims in ads in publications like the ‘British Medical Journal’, ‘Midwives’ magazine and ‘Nursing In Practice’ could potentially fall within this exemption.
If there is a small chance that non-practitioners might see an ad in media targeted at practitioners then including direct claims which target the ad only at healthcare professionals could contribute to the ASA considering the media and the ad to be addressed only to medical professionals.
Consider the claims
The types of claims that are likely to fall under this exemption are those that are medical in nature and will usually be related to efficacy or performance, including comparisons along those lines, for medicines or devices. Claims which use medical terms and abbreviations that people other than medical practitioners are unlikely to be familiar with are very likely to be viewed as related to a medical practitioner’s expertise. This exemption does not cover more general claims such as ‘best-selling’, price comparisons or concerns related to offence.
For example, in an ad that appears in Pulse, a magazine targeted at GPs, any claims about the efficacy of an advertised medicine are likely to be considered outside of the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) remit. However, a price comparison made in the same ad is unlikely to be considered a claim which relates specifically to GPs expertise and would therefore be considered within remit.
On the other hand, claims in an ad in ‘New Scientist’, which has a broad appeal and is not only directed at health professionals, would not be considered within this exemption.
Remember this applies both offline and online
This exemption also applies to online content and so claims in ads that appear on websites for publications like the above or online medical journals primarily aimed at medical professionals, could be considered as falling under the exemption. Also, websites for medicines and medical devices which are clearly addressed only to health professionals could fall within the exemption.
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
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