The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that an advertising campaign by Pfizer, which graphically depicted the dangers of obtaining prescription-only drugs from unregulated websites, did not breach the industry advertising code.
The agency initiated an investigation after receiving over 60 complaints, mostly from individuals who deemed the cinema advertisement as "unduly distressing," while some argued the content was offensive or misleading. The ad by Pfizer proclaims that "rat poison...is just one of the dangerous ingredients that may be found in fake medicines purchased from illegal websites."
In its decision, the advertising authority noted that "because the ad was designed to highlight an important issue, the dangers of which could result in damage to health or in fatality, we considered the metaphor of regurgitating a rat was likely to justify, for most people, the approach." In addition, the ASA also concluded that viewers were "unlikely to infer that only medicines bought from unregulated sources contained potentially dangerous ingredients."
Pfizer Medical Director David Gillen stated that the company is "really pleased with the adjudication." He added that "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."
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