The ASA upheld the complaint that the advertisement of Omega Pharma’s licensed Traditional Herbal Remedy (THR) Urostemol Men was irresponsible and potentially harmful.
The complainants argued that frequent nocturnal urination could be a symptom of health conditions for which medical advice should be sought such as prostate cancer and also challenged whether the company’s claim that the product was used by over ten million people could be substantiated.
Weak bladder or prostate cancer?
The company said the over-the-counter (OTC) herbal product containing pumpkin seed was intended for the relief of lower urinary tract symptoms in men related to an overactive bladder or bladder weakness.
Omega Pharma said OTC treatments were understood by consumers to be for short-term symptomatic relief for everyday health problems like headaches, joint pain or coughs.
It drew the parallel with other OTC products relating to coughs, which it said “would be well understood by consumers as for self-treatment for common coughs relating to colds and flu, rather than to serious conditions such as emphysema or asthma”.
Yet the ASA said the TV advertisement did not state or imply how long the actor had had the symptoms, how severe or recurrent they were, or what the condition causing them was.
“We therefore considered that consumers were likely to understand that Urostemol Men was a product intended to treat the symptom of frequent urination in general, regardless of its cause.”
The ASA acknowledged that frequent urination could be the result of less serious conditions, but agreed with the plaintiffs that it could also be a symptom of prostate cancer, diabetes or urinary tract infections for which qualified medical supervision should be sought.
“We told Omega Pharma Ltd to ensure that future ads did not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought, or repeat the claim ‘used by 10 million’ or any similar statement unless they held documentary evidence to substantiate it,” it wrote in its ruling this week.
Twice in a year
The case marks Omega Pharma’s second run-in with the ASA this year.
In February it was told to change advertising for its weight loss medical device XLS Medical, which raked in 200 complaints of irresponsible promotion of an unhealthy body image particularly among young girls.
At the time the company told us it had not meant to “cause offence, simply to highlight the variety of healthy weight-loss and weight-maintenance goals and motivations XLS-Medical can support with”.
The company did not respond to our request for comment on this latest ruling in time for the publication of this article.