Jul 4, 2016

Pharmaceutical Giant Experiences 'Pain' After Nurofen TV Advert Banned

The advertising watchdog has banned a TV advertisement for one of the biggest painkiller brands, Nurofen, because it alleged that the product could specifically target joint and back pain.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 18 complaints which raised concerns that the television advert for 'Nurofen Joint and Back' misleadingly implied that that the product specifically targeted pain in such areas.

Content of the Advert

The advert shows a woman suffering from back pain.  She is then shown taking Nurofen Joint and Back and as she takes the tablet an anatomical image shows the painkiller moving down her body to her back while on screen text appears, stating: "Also indicated for other aches and pains."

The advertisement then depicts the woman going about her activities without pain, interspersed with anatomical images of her back with a Nurofen symbol where the pain relief is acting. The voiceover claims: "Just a single dose of Nurofen Joint and Back provides you with constant targeted pain relief for up to eight hours."

In its response to the ASA, Reckitt Benckiser UK Commercial Ltd (RB), which owns the brand, stated that Nurofen Joint and Back contained the drug ibuprofen in its liquid form which means it is more readily absorbed that standard Nurofen.  The company also argued that ibuprofen alleviates pain by inhibiting the production of the chemical messengers that produces the feeling of pain at the site affected and that ibuprofen targets pain regardless of where it occurs in the body.

RB added that the advertisement shows an example of the pain which Nurofen Joint and Back could be used to treat, but does not imply that it targets back pain alone.

RB Comment

RB said it was "disappointed" with the ruling, saying: "Nurofen pain-specific products were introduced to provide easy navigation of pain-relief options for consumers experiencing a specific type of pain, particularly within the grocery environment where pharmacy support isn't available.


The ASA ruling sets an important precedent. In ruling that the advert was "misleading" there is likely to be a crackdown on the large number of pharmaceutical products promoted as being able to target specific aches and pains, for example, arthritis, when in fact they are simply general painkillers without a specific benefit where taking a much cheaper paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen product or mix will be equally effective.

Other Aches and Pains

It's not the first time RB has been in hot water for "misleading" customers with its advertising. Last year an Australian court fined it thousands for misleading customers over its pain-specific products.

in: Case Law, Companies, News, Regulatory

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