Guideline No. 18 - The advertising of Cosmetic products which make a direct comparison with prescription medicines

While certain puffery is allowed for cosmetic advertisements, care is needed not to compare the cosmetic with prescription medicines like collagen injections, or Botox injections,  which are medicines that are approved for a therapeutic purpose.  Any comparison with the approved therapeutic indication of the medicine would by implication suggest that the cosmetic advertised could be used for this therapeutic purpose, or imply a therapeutic outcome similar to the approved product.  It is likely that there would be no robust clinical evidence to support this implied claim.

For instance injectible Collagen products are registered medicines for appearance medicine treatment.  Any product comparison with injectible collagen fillers would make the product a medicine by association and Ministerial Consent would be required.

Similarly Botox injections are registered for the treatment of frown lines and crows feet around the eyes. A product comparison that by implication claims these effects and mentions Botox would also require Ministerial consent.

For this reason all reference to collagen injections and Botox injections should be omitted from cosmetic advertising, otherwise the products advertised will be claiming a therapeutic purpose by implication, and the advertising would breach Sec 20 of the Medicines Act 1981. 

Imagery that includes things like hypodermic syringes could further strengthen the association and the implied claim. 

There is also the issue of  compliance with Principle 3 of the ASA Code with reference to a depiction which portrays an unrealistic outcome.  It could be stretching credibility to imply that the cosmetic will have the same effect as the injection.  Arguably use of the cosmetic might lessen the chances of needing collagen injections or Botox injections at a later stage and perhaps this is the angle that needs to take in this advertising.

When the cosmetic advertisement specifically names the approved medicine, and is not specific about the comparison, then this is misleading, and it could also be in breach of the Comparative code, especially if the comparison denigrates the approved medicine.

The NZ Codes are quite strict about misleading claims and social responsibility, and it would be wise to avoid comparing a cosmetic with a prescription medicine and implying the same result. Such an advert would be open to complaint at the ASCB and would have a strong chance of being upheld.