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GSK wins case against Reckitt Benckiser over misleading ad campaign

Published on 23/01/18 at 11:12am

GlaxoSmithKline is celebrating as it emerges that the UK pharma giant triumphed in its legal battle against Reckitt Benckiser after accusing the rival firm of misleading consumers by directly comparing its product Nurofen to paracetamol in its advertising campaign, when GSK manufactures the branded version, Panadol.

GSK took issue with several elements of the campaign, particularly statements such as “Nurofen is better than Paracetamol’ and “Nurofen is superior to Paracetamol for tension type headaches,” and asserted that these claims were based on just one study which had been later contradicted by further studies, and that there was no evidence for the superiority of ibuprofen over paracetamol.

But now, the Federal Court of Australia has ruled that Reckitt was indeed guilty of misleading the public with its advertising campaign, and has upheld an injunction preventing the firm from continuing to make the offending claims. GSK has been awarded costs, with further orders to follow.

Justice Foster of the Federal Court wrote: “In my view, it is misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive consumers in Australia for Reckitt to claim that ibuprofen (Nurofen) provides faster and more effective relief from pain caused by common headaches including TTH (Tension Type Headaches) than does paracetamol (Panadol) when the only study which supports such a clear cut claim is the Schachtel Study and where the balance of the scientific knowledge is as I have explained it above. By making such representations, Reckitt also contravened s 29(1)(a) and s 29(1)(g) of the ACL (Australian Consumer Law).”

This isn’t the first time Reckitt has found itself the subject of a court case; the firm was hit with the biggest fine in Australian consumer law history last year for again misleading consumers with spurious claims and was forced to pay $6 million.

Matt Fellows

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