Australia’s health regulator has issued $847,000 worth of fines to companies found profiteering from the COVID-19 pandemic with illegal or misleading products.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued fines for misleading customers regarding COVID-19 products, advertising certain things as potential COVID-19 cures, as well as importing potentially illegal goods into Australia.
According to a report from The Guardian, the TGA has “issued 81 infringement notices totalling $847,000 to dozens of companies since the start of the pandemic, including for unlawfully advertising or importing masks, medical devices, disinfectants, hand sanitisers, peptile products or thermometers.”
One of the more unusual products found in breach of the TGA’s guidelines was a “bionic air plasma medical device” which claimed to cure COVID-19, for which the company was handed a fine. In August, Medical Sales and Service Pty Ltd was fined $12,600 for illegally importing facemasks, while Yarra Valley Cleaning Co Pty Ltd was fined $39,960 for claiming its products were “99.9999% effective” for viruses.
The TGA has issued a statement saying that the “advertising on the company’s website was allegedly misleading and implied the disinfectant product was entered in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, when it was not.”
“Advertising for therapeutic goods must be truthful, balanced and not misleading. This includes any implied claims,” it said.
John Skerritt, Deputy Secretary of the Health Department has said that “advertising targeting vulnerable groups, including seniors, is of particular concern to the TGA during these challenging times.”
Earlier this week, the TGA launched legal action against Oxymed Australia Pty Ltd and its director, Mr Malcom Hooper for “unlawful advertising of hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers.”
According to a release from the Therapeutic Goods Administration, “the TGA alleges the advertising promoted the devices for the treatment of serious diseases and medical conditions, including coronavirus (COVID-19), cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism spectrum disorders.”
The TGA hit Oxymed with five infringement notices worth $63,000 for unlawful advertising, who reportedly refused to pay the fines. It then launched court proceedings against Oxymed for its advertising campaign, as well as additional penalties for being in breach of the Therapeutic Goods Act of 1989.
Adjunct Professor and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health, John Skerritt has said that “the TGA continues to actively pursue those responsible for unlawful advertising in order to protect some of the most vulnerable Australians- those living with serious diseases and conditions.”
“We will not tolerate the actions of any business which tries to take advantage of people, particularly during these very stressful times, and the TGA will continue to ensure the health and wellbeing of Australians is its highest priority,” Skerritt concluded.
It is not the first fine handed down by the TGA for misleading advertising for therapeutic goods. In 2019, Peptide Clinics Australia was handed a $10 million fine from the Federal Court of Australia, and in May of this year, it launched a similar court action against ‘Miracle Mineral Solution’ (MMS) Australia’s Director for misleading advertising and importing potentially dangerous substances.