The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has instituted proceedings against Nurofen manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser for misleading the public with its "Specific Pain" range of pain-relievers. The colour-coded products were purportedly formulated to treat a specific kind of pain, but were actually identical.
As most of you are probably aware, Nurofen's Specific Pain products (Nurofen Back Pain, Nurofen Period Pain, Nurofen Migraine Pain, and Nurofen Tension Headache) all contain the same dose of ibuprofen lysine (342mg) and are essentially identical to one another. It's one of the worst kept secrets in the grocery aisle and something that can be easily ascertained by comparing the ingredients of each product. Hell, even my mum knows it's a sham.
Nevertheless, the ACCC has rightfully taken umbrage at this blatant deception. The consumer watchdog outlined its allegations in the below statement:
The ACCC alleges that Reckitt Benckiser made representations on the packaging of each Nurofen Specific Pain Product, and on its website www.nurofen.com.au, that each product:
- was designed and formulated to treat a particular type of pain
- had specific efficacy in treating a particular type of pain
- solely treated a particular type of pain
In addition to using the same active ingredient, all four products were approved by the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods as being suitable for treating a wide variety of pain types. The ACCC alleges that consumers were misled into purchasing Nurofen Specific Pain Products under the false belief that each product is specifically designed for and effective in treating a particular type of pain.
The ACCC also found that the products were significantly more expensive than comparable products that act as general pain relievers. This essentially means that consumers are paying a premium for nothing.
"The ACCC takes false or misleading claims about the efficacy of health and medical products very seriously," ACCC explain in a statement.
"Indeed, truth in advertising and consumer issues in the health and medical sectors are ACCC enforcement priorities in 2015."
This isn't the first time the company has come under fire for spruiking targeted pain relief — in June last year, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) slammed Nurofen for claiming its medication products target the source or cause of pain. (Read the full story here.)
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, an order for the publication of corrective notices, penalties and costs. The takeaway lesson here is that you should never believe an advertisement at face value, even if it's from a reputable drug company.
Update: In response to the ACCC's announcement, Nurofen has responded with the following statement:
Nurofen is aware of the ACCC's concerns in relation to the Nurofen pain-specific packaging. Nurofen disputes any allegation of contravention of consumer law in relation to its pain-specific packaging. All Nurofen packs are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and comply with TGA’s regulatory guidelines. Nurofen pain-specific products provide easier navigation of pain-relief options in the grocery environment for consumers who are experiencing a particular type of pain. Nurofen is committed to the quality use of medicines and promoting and protecting the health of Australians. As part of this commitment and responsibility, Nurofen works closely with all regulatory bodies to ensure high standards compliance to guidelines. Nurofen will continue to work with regulators to ensure its packaging continues to be fully aligned with all guidelines and requirements and still offer consumers with clear pain relief options for their pain type. Nurofen products remain available for sale at all leading retailers.
So there you have it, folks. The packaging isn't about deception, it's about easier navigation. We'll let you be the judge of that in the comments.