The online pharmacy Pharmacy2U has been criticised by the advertising watchdog for making “misleading” statements claiming that it could save the NHS £300m.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld complaints made about Pharmacy2U advertisements that claimed it could save the £300m by managing repeat prescriptions and that this would be “better for the NHS”.
One of the advertisements appeared on Twitter and the others were shown on TV.
During the ASA’s investigations, Pharmacy2U argued that if all pharmacies were paid the same rate as them for dispensing prescriptions then a saving of over £300m would follow.
In its ruling, the ASA acknowledged that Pharmacy2U could save the NHS money, and noted that the NHS had previously approved a claim by the firm stating: “Most of the time, it’s cheaper for the NHS to partner with Pharmacy2U, so we save the NHS money.”
But the ASA added that this claim was much less specific than the £300m claim in the advertisements and it ruled that Pharmacy2U’s claims were misleading and unsubstantiated.
Pharmacy2U was ordered not to repeat the advertisements in their current form. The ASA added: “We told Pharmacy2U to ensure that they held adequate substantiation for claims relating to savings generated for the NHS if people switched from paper repeat prescriptions to online repeat prescription services such as theirs.”
The National Pharmacy Association made 1 of 25 complaints about the advertisements, and a spokesperson said: “People’s choices about where to obtain their NHS medicines ought not to be skewed by misleading and unsubstantiated claims. Neither should local community pharmacies be put at a disadvantage by such advertisements.”
A spokesperson for Pharmacy2U said: “We are disappointed that the ASA has decided to uphold a complaint specific to the way the saving was presented in our advert, which had been generated using a calculation previously approved by the NHS. We will work with the ASA to amend the presentation of the cost saving, but the essence of the advertising — that online management of medicines could be better for patients and the NHS — remains.”