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Two big pharma companies accused of false marketing

Published on 06/12/17 at 11:00am

Novartis and GSK have been taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over allegations of falsely marketing their Osteo Gel pain relief product.

The case relates to two products in relation to one another, with the companies both having sold Osteo Gel and Emulgel as pain relief products, but with the former purportedly being specifically targeted for people with osteoarthritis.

In reality, both products contain exactly the same active ingredient – diclofenac diethylammonium gel 11.6mg/g. However, the ACCC found that Osteo Gel was being sold at a 10 to 33% premium on the Emulgel product.

“We allege that consumers are likely to have been misled into purchasing Osteo Gel, thinking that it is different [from] Emulgel and more effective for treating osteoarthritis conditions, when this is not the case,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said. “In fact, the product has an identical formulation to Emulgel, and both products are equally effective in treating not only osteoarthritis but also a range of other pain conditions.”

GSK actually acquired Novartis’ portfolio of Voltaren products in 2016, being responsible for marketing and selling them after this time. This has left Novartis pointing towards GSK being responsible for the marketing of the product, though ACCC saw the case differently by including the former company in the case.

GSK, for its part, suggested that it had created an ‘easy-open’ for the Osteo Gel so that it was better suited for people with osteoarthritis. It also noted that it had included instructions specifically for individuals with the condition, with a note on the packaging that the ingredients were same as Emulgel.

The case comes not long after the ACCC successfully won a case against Reckitt Benckiser over claims made by the company over its Nurofen product’s painkilling effects. The case resulted in a fine of A$6 million (£3.40 million) for the company involved.

Ben Hargreaves

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