Complaints addressed by regulatory authorities in drug advertising targeted at consumers: Cases across three, different countries

Res Social Adm Pharm. 2019 Oct;15(10):1274-1279. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2018.12.001. Epub 2018 Dec 7.


Background: Misleading advertisements can affect behavior of both consumers and prescribers and may lead to inappropriate use of medications.

Objective: To analyze the complaints upheld by regulatory authorities in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia regarding pharmaceutical advertising directed at consumers.

Methods: Complaints addressed between January 2014 and June 2017 were retrieved from the websites of regulatory authorities. Complaints addressed by self-regulatory bodies were not included due to the poor availability of data.

Results: Sixty complaints, 374 complaints, and 223 complaints from the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, respectively, were analyzed. In the United Kingdom, the most frequent type of violation was advertising of prescription drugs (70.5%); most of these violations involved botulinum toxin. In Canada, advertising on online media was more likely to be associated with prescription drugs than that on traditional media (P < 0.001). In Australia, advertising of prescription drugs accounted for less than 10% of complaints, but all were associated with online media.

Conclusions: In countries where direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs is prohibited, regulatory authorities may need to devise further strategies to safeguard the public as this is an unresolved issue and is predicted to become more problematic with the increased use of online media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Direct-to-Consumer Advertising / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Drug Industry / economics
  • Drug Industry / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Drug Industry / standards*
  • Government Regulation
  • Humans
  • Prescription Drugs / economics*
  • United Kingdom


  • Prescription Drugs