As of 31st January 2020, new enforceable guidelines came into effect for the advertising of Prescription Only Medicines (POM’s) including Botulinum toxin. This followed a surprise announcement by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) earlier in the month.
Outlined – the MHRA, ASA, and CAP
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) is a Government agency responsible for the licensing of medicines. They ensure that medicines and medical devices work, and are acceptably safe. They previously produced the ‘Blue Guide – Advertising and Promotion of Medicines in the UK’ in order to ensure medicines are not ‘treated as an ordinary general commodity’ due to the potential associated adverse effects.
The work of the MHRA is supported by the UK Code of Non-Branded Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing (CAP Code), which outlines the advertising rules for marketing communications. These rules are then enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s independent advertising regulator.
Prescription Only Medicines (POM’s)
Botulinum toxin, commonly known under the brand names of Botox®, Azzalure®, and Bocouture®, is a Prescription Only Medicine (POM) and as per the aforementioned CAP Code and the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 - it is an offence to promote or incentivise its use to the public.
Whilst this code of conduct has been in place for some time, the new enforceable nature of these guidelines utilises monitoring technology in order to effectively identify ads that are in breach of the regulations and report them to Instagram. It is also possible that the MHRA or relevant regulatory bodies could be informed of any breaches
So what’s actually changed?
Aesthetic practitioners can no longer directly OR indirectly reference Botulinum Toxin:
The official guidelines are as follows:
- Remove direct references to Botox® or other POMs, including references in images and use of hashtags e.g. #botox or #antiwrinkletreatment. References must also not be used in offers or sales packages.
- Do not substitute direct references to POM’s with indirect phrases that can only refer to a POM such as “wrinkle relaxing injections”. This is indirect promotion of a POM, and just as much of a problem. Be aware the ASA considers that a reference to “anti-wrinkle injections” alongside a price that relates to a POM will be seen as an ad for that POM (also see below re “anti-wrinkle injections” claims)
- Avoid references to treating medical conditions in a way that could indicate the promotion of a POM, for example “injections for excessive sweating” (hyperhidrosis). If you offer non-POM treatments, you could instead refer to “treatments for excessive sweating” or similar.
The CAP guidelines confirm that what practitioners should instead do is focus on the consultation process offered, with the guidelines stating, “Promote the service you provide and the consultation itself. Claims such as ‘a consultation for the treatment of lines and wrinkles’ may be acceptable.”
Adherence to these new enforceable guidelines for Botox® advertising is not only wise from a regulatory standpoint, given the possible consequences of any breaches; but also in order for practitioners to conduct themselves in a way that takes responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of their potential audience.
The public often emulate the appearance of those they see in the media. From everyday people sharing their treatment results to more overt celebrity endorsement – the impact on the rise in popularity of both surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures is clear. The boom of social media over the last few years, particularly Instagram as a visually focused platform, has, of course, contributed to the exponential acceleration of this market.
Potential patients who were to view inappropriate promotion of POM’s are vulnerable to being misled in terms of the achievable results, as well as underestimating the risks involved in what is inherently a medical procedure. The provision of treatment using Botulinum toxin is a medical one requiring a prescription from a qualified healthcare professional after they've deemed it clinically indicated from a face to face consultation.
Train with us
As a responsible academy of aesthetic medicine, Acquisition Aesthetics urges all their graduates to act diligently and responsibly when using social platforms to attract new patients and ensure strict adherence to the guidelines. We have updated our course learning materials to highlight and reinforce the practical, ethical application of the CAP Code within the theoretical segment of all courses.
If you’re interested in joining our botox training academy, you can view all our available courses here. If you’d like to discuss your training options further, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 514 8757 to speak to a member of our friendly team.