Headaches for Reckitt over charges of misleading claims for OTC painkillers

Reckitt Benckiser executives may need some of the company's own pain meds this week. First in Australia and now in the U.K., the drugmaker is being taken to task over misleading claims for its painkiller Nurofen.

In Australia, a judge ordered four "different" kinds of Nurofen pulled from store shelves. While each product has a different name targeting a different pain--Nurofen Back Pain, Nurofen Period Pain, Nurofen Migraine Pain and Nurofen Tension Headache--each had the exact same active ingredient and at the same strength, 342 mg of ibuprofen lysine.

A Reckitt spokesperson told Reuters that it will change the four drugs' packaging to note they are effective for other types of pain, and said that the company did not intend to mislead consumers.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., Reckitt is under investigation for TV advertising for its Nurofen Express, charged with making inaccurate claims that "the product directly targets muscles in the head," and that it works more quickly than standard ibuprofen, according to The Financial Times.

The U.K.'s independent Advertising Standards Authority told FT the investigation is complex and ongoing, while Reckitt said it stands by its claims and couldn't comment further until the ruling is issued.

Adding insult to injury, although not under investigation, is the fact that Nurofen's specialty labeled drugs are more expensive and in some cases, sold at almost double the price of its standard painkiller in both countries, according to several news stories.

Reckitt has three months to pull the mismarketed products, and must run corrections online and in newspapers. A court date to assign the fine in the Australian case has not been set, although the potential penalty is up to $800,000 per product.

This is not the first time Reckitt has been charged with making misleading Nurofen claims; in 2012, the Australian government ordered one of its TV ads withdrawn. The ad included the "misleading" claim that Nurofen "goes straight to the pain" together with "imagery of the medicine ascending from the neck to the head," according to the filed complaint.

- read the Financial Times coverage (sub. req.)
- see the Reuters story

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