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MHRA and ASA issue enforcement notices on the rules around advertising botulinum toxin.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) alongside the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have kick-started 2020 with a campaign to remind clinicians in the aesthetics industry on the rules around advertising botulinum toxin.

They are focusing particularly on posts and adverts on popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram where advertising of Botox treatments is widespread. The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has issued warnings to 130,000 service providers in the industry reminding them of the regulations. From 31st January 2020, the ASA will be using new monitoring technology to detect content which breaks the rules. Any clinicians found to be breaking the rules could be referred to the MHRA for further investigation and may incur enforcement penalties.

In the UK, Prescription Only Medicines (POMs) cannot be advertised to the public – even if you are a medical professional with training to administer that POM. This means that you cannot make direct references to Botulinum Toxin on your social media posts or adverts. You also cannot use brand names such as Botox, Vistabel, Dysport, Bocouture, or Azzalure. Terms such as “Beautytox” or “Beautox” are also banned as they make an obvious reference to Botox.

What Does The ASA Guidance Say:

Take care not to directly or indirectly promote POMs to the public when promoting the treatment services you offer on social media.

• Remove direct references to Botox or other POMs. This includes names such as “Beautytox” or “Beautox” where the obvious inference is a reference to Botox.
– Remember – this includes references in images and hashtags e.g. #botox
– Also – this covers all promotional marketing, like offering “Botox parties” or “Botox treatment” as a competition prize or in a sale package.

• Do not substitute direct references to POMs with indirect phrases that can only refer to a POM such as “wrinkle relaxing injections”. This is the indirect promotion of a POM, and just as much of a problem.

• Be aware the ASA considers that a reference to “anti-wrinkle injections” alongside a price that relates to a POM will be seen as an ad for that POM (also see below re “anti-wrinkle injections” claims).

• Avoid references to treating medical conditions in a way that could indicate the promotion of a POM, for example, “injections for excessive sweating” (hyperhidrosis). If you offer non POM treatments, you could instead refer to “treatments for excessive sweating” or similar.

Click here to download a copy of the ASA Enforcement Notice: Advertising Botox and other botulinum toxin injections.

How Can I Advertise My Clinics Services?

As a clinician, it is your responsibility to understand and adhere to the guidelines set out by the ASA, CAP and MHRA. The enforcement notice does state that if you offer dermal fillers and other new POM products in your clinics, you are OK to advertise these, providing you use terms such as “dermal fillers” or “cosmetic fillers” to be expressly clear that you are only advertising your non-POM “filler”. The notice goes on to say that with Botox you should focus only on aspects of your service which do not relate directly to the provision of a POM, such as the consultation. Claims such as “consultation for the treatment of lines and wrinkles” may be acceptable – but if using this approach you must be careful not to directly or indirectly advertise the POM.

The ASA have also published a Botox – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page which offers further advice on the subject.