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GSK and Novartis face penalties for misleading consumers on Voltaren products

voltarenThe makers of Voltaren gel pain relief products face heavy penalties for misleading consumers in the marketing of Voltaren Osteo Gel and Voltaren Emulgel pain relief products.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSK) and Novartis Consumer Health Australasia (Novartis) admitted to The Federal Court that they breached Australian Consumer Law by marketing Osteo Gel as being specifically formulated and more effective than Emulgel in treating osteoarthritis related pain and inflammation, from January 2012 to March 2017, when this was not the case.

Despite both products being identical and equally effective in treating osteoarthritis symptoms and a range of other conditions, the ACCC found that Osteo Gel was often sold at a significantly higher retail price, in some cases 33 per cent more, than Emulgel.

“Novartis and GSK misled osteoarthritis sufferers into buying the more expensive Osteo Gel thinking that it was more effective than Emulgel for treating their symptoms, when this is not the case,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

The claims were made on product packaging and the Voltaren website by both companies and Novartis also made the claims on the My Joint Health website.

Voltaren 17 May

“This case serves as a warning to all businesses that misleading consumers into thinking that products are specifically formulated to treat or target certain conditions when this is not the case can lead to serious consequences,” Court added.

In March 2017 GSK amended the Osteo Gel packaging to include the words “Same effective formula as Voltaren Emulgel”. The Court found that while clearer wording would have been preferable, this and other changes to the packaging meant that misleading representations were not made.

A hearing will be held at a later date to determine penalties sought by the ACCC.

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