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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

GSK and Novartis Consumer to pay $4.5 million fine over Voltaren Osteo Gel

Health Industry Hub | May 28, 2020 |

The Federal Court has ordered that the makers of pain relief product Voltaren Osteo Gel pay $4.5 million in penalties for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law.

In May 2019 the Federal Court accepted admissions by Novartis Consumer Health and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Australia that they made false or misleading representations in the marketing of Voltaren Osteo Gel and Voltaren Emulgel pain relief products.

From January 2012 to March 2017, Novartis and then GSK marketed Osteo Gel as being specifically formulated and more effective than Emulgel in treating osteoarthritis related pain and inflammation even though both had the same active ingredients.

Osteo Gel was often sold at a higher price than Emulgel and the gels were often displayed next to each other at pharmacies and grocery stores.

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“Novartis and GSK’s claims, which made Osteo Gel seem more effective than Emulgel, were unacceptable,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

“Voltaren Osteo Gel and Voltaren Emulgel were essentially the same gel and were equally effective in treating osteoarthritis symptoms.”

“Novartis and GSK’s claims were particularly concerning because they set recommended retail prices for Osteo Gel above that of Emulgel, by up to 16%, and consumers were potentially misled into paying more for an identical product believing it was more effective,” Ms Court said.

The misleading claims were made on product packaging and the Voltaren website by both companies and Novartis also made the claims on the My Joint Health website.

In March 2017, GSK amended the Osteo Gel packaging to include the words ‘Same effective formula as Voltaren Emulgel’. The Court did not find that the revised packaging was misleading.

GSK and Novartis made joint submissions on penalties with the ACCC to the Court.

GSK acquired Novartis’ portfolio of Voltaren products in March 2016 and has been responsible for marketing and selling Voltaren products since 1 June 2016, after a 3 month transitional period.

GSK stopped supplying the Osteo Gel product to retailers in May 2018.


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