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3 medicinal cannabis companies fined almost $1million for alleged unlawful advertising

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has issued 73 infringement notices totalling $972,360 to licensed medicinal cannabis companies, MGC Pharmaceuticals Ltd (23 notices, $306,360) Cannatrek Ltd (22 notices, $293,040) and Little Green Pharma Ltd (28 notices, $372,960) for the alleged unlawful advertising of medicinal cannabis products on their websites and social media platforms.

The companies allegedly promoted the use of prescription-only medicinal cannabis products, including in certain cases their own named products, that are unapproved medicines (not entered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods).

It is also alleged that the unlawful advertising included unapproved references to the treatment of serious diseases or conditions, including in some cases cancer and epilepsy. Further, some advertising allegedly suggested or implied that particular medicinal cannabis products were recommended or approved by a government authority.

While the TGA facilitates legal pathways for medical practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis products to patients, the medicinal cannabis products that are subject of these infringement notices are unapproved prescription-only medicines that cannot be advertised to consumers.

Advertising of prescription-only medicines directly to consumers undermines the doctor-patient relationship and may create an inappropriate demand for particular medicines which may not be right for the individual. Businesses can advertise prescription-only medicines exclusively to health professionals as long as those advertisements are not accessible to the public.

The use in advertisements, of claims about a serious disease or condition is also unlawful without express permission from the TGA because Australians facing a serious disease or condition are a particularly vulnerable consumer group.

Ensuring compliance with the import, advertising and supply requirements of the Act in relation to medicinal cannabis is a priority for the TGA.

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