The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that Pfizer's cinema advertisement in which a man is seen coughing-up a dead rat did not breach the industry advertising code.
The advert, seen by cinema audiences across the UK, aimed to highlight the danger of obtaining medicines from unregulated sources. Evidence shows that there is a risk of these medicines being counterfeit, containing too little, too much or no active ingredient, or worse, toxic substances such as rat poison, boric acid or lead paint.
The ASA investigated the advert having received 63 complaints from members of the public. The adjudication concludes that the aim of the advert justified the use of hard-hitting imagery, that it did not cause fear or distress without good reason and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The adjudication quotes the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA), which classified the advertisement in the 15 years and above category, saying they "believed the intended social good of the ad justified its impact". The ASA adjudication comes just one week after a survey of 423 doctors, by GP magazine, found that 25 per cent of them had treated patients for side effects caused by medicines bought online.
"We're really pleased with the adjudication," said Dr David Gillen, of Pfizer. "We set out to inform the public about the very real and growing threat from counterfeit medicines. We certainly did not want to offend people, but the dangers of obtaining medicines from unregulated sources are very real and we needed to forcefully communicate that message."
Data shows that between 50 and 90 per cent of all prescription-only medicines bought online from unregulated websites may be counterfeit or substandard.
The "Get Real, Get a Prescription" cinema advert was shown at 651 screens (around 600 cinemas) nationally between January 16 and March 5.