MIL-OSI Australia: Advertising therapeutic goods with COVID-19 testing advice


Source: Australian Department of Health

As part of the Australian Government Department of Health, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates the advertising of therapeutic goods in Australia. This fact sheet explains how sponsors and advertisers of therapeutic goods can lawfully include statements about COVID-19 testing in their advertising.

Importantly, the use of COVID-19 testing advice statements in an advertisement for therapeutic goods is not mandatory.

The information set out in this guidance does not extinguish responsibilities that advertisers have under other relevant laws, including but not limited to, the Australian Consumer Law.

Using COVID-19 testing advice statements lawfully

Representations used in advertising directed to the public that refer to a serious disease, such as COVID-19, are ‘restricted representations’ and must be approved by the TGA before being used in an advertisement. More information about restricted representations is available on the TGA website.

In recognition of the desire by sponsors and advertisers of therapeutic goods to contribute to the dissemination of the government’s health messaging about COVID-19 testing, the TGA has issued a permission under section 42DK of the Act, which allows advertisers of all therapeutic goods included on the ARTG, other than goods that contain a substance included in Schedule 3, 4 or 8 to the current Poisons Standard (but not on Appendix H), to use representations that expressly refer to COVID-19 in the context of advising individuals to follow health advice about COVID-19 testing.

Specifically, advertisers are permitted to use representations to the following effect in advertisements about the therapeutic goods:

  • if you have symptoms relating to COVID-19, seek health advice about getting tested
  • if you have symptoms relating to COVID-19 such as [insert symptoms], seek health advice about getting tested.

The Department of Health website states that symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever, respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, sore throat or shortness of breath), runny nose, congestion, headache, muscle or joint pains, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of sense of smell, altered sense of taste, loss of appetite and fatigue.

These arrangements will cease on 31 December 2022.

General statements

In addition to the above representations, sponsors and advertisers may also use general statements about testing, or health advice that do not expressly refer to COVID-19, such as “get tested”, “stay at home if you are unwell”, or “follow health advice” in advertising.

Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code

Advertisements for therapeutic goods that are directed to the public must comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, including the requirement that advertisements must not be inconsistent with a public health campaign.

For example, the use of representations referring to COVID-19 testing in an advertisement that otherwise conflicts with the public health messaging about SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, such as staying home when unwell, would be unlikely to comply with this requirement.

Further information

  • Australian Government material on COVID-19 symptoms is available from ‘What you need to know about coronavirus COVID-19′.
  • The arrangements described in this guidance are enabled by:
  • If you have questions about the legal requirements regarding advertising of therapeutic goods, please lodge an advertising enquiry online with the TGA.
  • You can also contact the TGA by phone on 1800 020 653 (free call within Australia) or 02 6289 4124 (for mobiles that do not allow 1800 calls).