What the new TGA Advertising Code actually means

There's been a lot of misinformation surrounding the new Therapeutic Good Administration’s (TGA) Advertising Code – so what exactly does it mean for brands and creators?

The TGA Advertising Code regulates how advertisers can promote therapeutic goods, and has updated its regulations to align influencers with other advertising platforms. 

Under the TGA social media advertising guide, "a social media post that promotes the use or supply of therapeutic goods is an advertisement."

"Whether an advertisement for therapeutic goods appears on social media or in any other media, the advertisement must comply with therapeutic goods legislation."

The Australian Influencer Marketing Council (AIMCO) clarified, via a statement, that the updated TGA code ‘does not ban promotion’ of therapeutic goods, but aligns the rules for influencers with the longstanding rules for other advertising formats of therapeutic goods.

What are therapeutic goods?

Therapeutic goods range from medicines or medical devices and have a health effect on the human body. Other types of products, such as cosmetics, will also become subject to TGA regulations if they are represented for therapeutic use.

Claims such as 'removes toxins', 'fades age spots', 'relieves pain', 'aids sugar metabolism', 'reduces inflammation in the body' are all therapeutic use claims.

In Australia, TGA approval is required for:

  • - Sunscreens
  • - Supplements
  • - Vitamins
  • - Protein powders
  • - Medicated shampoos
  • - Some acne and skin-lightening products

What's not allowed under the updated TGA Advertising Code?

Influencers will no longer be able to provide testimonials on therapeutic goods if they have been:

  • - Paid to do so
  • - Gifted a free item

What is allowed?

  • - Genuine un-paid testimonials are permitted online
  • - Paid or gifted endorsements

So, what's the difference between a testimonial and an endorsement?

According to the TGA, "any comments you make about your personal experience with therapeutic goods amounts to a testimonial."

Testimonials are not permitted by those involved in the production, sale, supply or marketing of the goods. This includes influencers who are engaged by a therapeutic goods company to promote the goods.

"A testimonial is made where an individual person, has used a therapeutic good and has testified as to the outcome(s) they experienced from the use of the good. For example, 'I use Brand Z cream on my eczema as it helps soothe the itch and inflammation' or 'Brand A liquid helped ease my daughter’s discomfort during teething'." 

Whereas an endorsement is factual information, without any personal results or outcome.

"An endorsement is made where a person, or corporation, sanctions (approves of) a particular therapeutic good but there is no indication as to the outcome(s) from the use of the good by any individual. For example, 'Company X recommends Brand Y disinfectant'." 

Tips for influencers:

If you are an influencer who is involved with a therapeutic goods company (for example, you have been paid or given a product by the company to promote their goods), you should consider the following tips, as provided by the TGA:

  • - Any post about a therapeutic good that you make may be considered advertising. If it is, you have an obligation to comply with the advertising requirements for therapeutic goods.
  • - Any comments you make about your personal experience with therapeutic goods amounts to a testimonial. Testimonials are not permitted by those involved in the production, sale, supply or marketing of the goods. This includes influencers who are engaged by a therapeutic goods company to promote the goods.
  • - Your social media posts may have an impact on your followers' beliefs, attitudes, preferences and behaviours. Your comments about therapeutic goods can influence consumers' choices. Therapeutic goods should be chosen on the basis of clinical need, not through the persuasion of influencers.
  • - Understand what the approved purpose of the good is and do not advertise the good for a purpose other than that, even if your experience with the good is otherwise. For more information about the intended purpose of a therapeutic good, see the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

When does the new code come into effect?

  • - Brands and creators have until June 30, 2022 to transition to the new code
  • - All previously posted testimonials that are in breach need to be taken down by July 1, 2022

If you are are unsure about your obligations in relation to social media advertising of therapeutic goods, please seek advice from a lawyer or regulatory affairs consultant. 

For more information about advertising therapeutic goods, visit the TGA Advertising Hub