According to an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) statement released 28 May 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 Novartis Consumer Health Australasia Pty Ltd (Novartis) and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Australia Pty Ltd (GSK) submitted admissions to the Federal Court 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 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.
The misleading claims were made on product packaging and the Voltaren website by both companies, and Novartis also made the claims on its dedicated website.
According to ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court, the claims were “unacceptable”.
“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%.
“Consumers were potentially misled into paying more for an identical product believing it was more effective,” says Ms Court.
In March 2017, GSK amended the Osteo Gel packaging to include the words, ‘Same effective formula as Voltaren Emulgel’, with the revised packaging not deemed misleading by the Court.