Pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Novartis have been ordered to pay $4.5 million for misleading consumers in the marketing of Voltaren Osteo Gel and Voltaren Emulgel pain relief products.
From January 2012 to March 2017, Novartis and then GSK marketed Osteo Gel to seem more effective than Emulgel in the treatment of osteoarthritis related pain and inflammation even though both had the same active ingredients.
In May 2019, both companies admitted in the Federal Court that they had made false or misleading representations which breached Australian Consumer Law.
“Voltaren Osteo Gel and Voltaren Emulgel were essentially the same gel and were equally effective in treating osteoarthritis symptoms,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
Court said the claims were particularly concerning because they set recommended retail prices for Osteo Gel above that of Emulgel, by up to 16 per cent.
“Consumers were potentially misled into paying more for an identical product believing it was more effective,” she said.
GSK acquired Novartis’ portfolio of Voltaren products in March 2016 and has been responsible for marketing and selling Voltaren products since June 1, 2016.
The misleading claims about the product were made on packaging and the Voltaren website by both companies and Novartis also made the claims on the My Joint Health website.
In March 2017, GSK amended the Osteo Gel packaging to read ‘Same effective formula as Voltaren Emulgel’, but ultimately stopped supplying the product to retailers in May 2018, five months after the ACCC instituted proceedings.