The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has sued Novartis Consumer Health Australasia (Novartis) and GlaxoSmithKline Healthcare Australia (GSK) over misleading representations in the marketing of two pain relief products.
Initiated in the Federal Court of Australia, the proceedings involve Voltaren Osteo Gel and Emulgel, which GSK purchased from Novartis last year.
ACCC alleges that the pharmaceutical companies represented Osteo Gel specifically for osteoarthritis conditions and indicated more efficacy than Emulgel, while both the products were formulated in a similar manner.
The products contain 11.6mg/g diclofenac diethylammonium as the active ingredient that works non-specifically to minimise pain and inflammation in the area of application.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said: “We allege that consumers are likely to have been misled into purchasing Osteo Gel thinking that it is different to Emulgel and more effective for treating osteoarthritis conditions, when this is not the case.
“In fact, the product has an identical formulation to Emulgel, and both products are equally effective in treating not only osteoarthritis, but also a range of other pain conditions.”
During a price sampling analysis at supermarkets and pharmacies, the commission observed that Osteo Gel is usually available at a comparatively higher price than Emulgel.
Sims further alleged that the move is a deliberate commercial strategy by the companies to mislead customers.
Sims added: “The alleged conduct is particularly concerning, given the significant penalties handed down by the court against the makers of Nurofen for what we consider to be similar conduct.”
In addition to pecuniary penalties, ACCC is requesting for declarations, injunctions, a publication order and imposition of a compliance programme and costs.