Can anyone enlighten me on why posting bargains for flu shots are banned here?

Had my deal removed recently on flu shots from Chemist Warehouse? I read the guidelines and was surprised that prescription medicine (including flu shots) are banned from deal postings.

Since flu shots come out every year, I believe it would be beneficial for people in the community that want a flu shots to be able to see the cheapest price around. Is there a specific reason on why this is banned from deal postings?


  • Received a complaint from TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) in 2014. Basically they are arguing OzBargain is advertising prescription medicine on our website, which is in breach of Paragraph 42DL(1)(f) of Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, the Therapeutic Goods Regulations and the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code 2007 (Code), as well as other relevant laws.

    When asked about whether flu shots post are allowed, I got the following reply:

    If the content (discussion etc) on a user-generated content website such as OzBargain has the effect of promoting the use of that prescription medicine then a reference to that medicine is likely to breach section 42DL(1)(f) of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), the relevant provision of the Act as described in the TGA's below email, which applies to all advertisements for therapeutic goods.

    Flu vaccines are prescription-only medicines and would also be covered by this provision. As such, user-generated posts/advertisements for flu vaccines that are offered by medical centres or chemists, both free and at cost, would not be permitted under the therapeutic goods legislation.

    • Thanks for the reply scotty.

    • Does it cost the TGA more if more people know about the shots? I can see people going to their GP and asking for a prescription more if there is an awareness of cheap shots. If a sizable proportion if the population are given the shot does it increase the chance of a resistant strain forming? I don't want to sound like a conspiracist but does the TGA want to limit knowledge about the shots out there so those in the know can continue to access effective shots?

      • I wonder if it's basically because direct to consumer advertising is not allowed in Australia. Which is interesting as there is an ad available on the Chemists Warehouse website for flu shots.

        • Yes, how is it that the Chemist Warehouse gets away with advertising flu shots, but we can't discuss prices here?

        • @resubaehtgnolhcs:
          I believe the short answer is they are a pharmacy.
          After seeing the horror of American pharma advertising, I a m happy to live with the minor hassle of no flu shot bargains for the massive benefit of no relentless climate-of-fear advertising for prescription drugs.

          As an aside, the flu shot makes me unwell for a day or so. I seem to catch the flu once every ten years or less, and it knocks me out for 4 or 5 days. Since I have no risk factors or people around me with them, I skip the shot.

        • @mskeggs: Hmmm, even as a pharmacy, I don't believe they can promote prescription pharmaceuticals.

        • +1 vote

          not just that, they have a big billboard on the highway between Bris/Gold Coast.

        • @resubaehtgnolhcs:
          I think the distinction is between 'can be purchased here' which is ok if you are a pharmacy, and 'can be purchased there' which is not ok if you are not a pharmacy.
          But I am not defending them, I actually think they shouldn't be able to advertise either.
          If you look in their flyers, the prescription listings are usually bland price lists, I understand to avoid the charge of "promoting".

        • @mskeggs: Yes, I agree with what you're saying regarding their flyers with just prices for prescription medications, but have a look at their ad for the flu vax. If you read everything they write underneath the pictorial, it looks like advertising to me…

        • @resubaehtgnolhcs:
          I'm not arguing, it does look like a promotion to me too.
          But I won't bother complaining, even though I am super anti-medical advertising. It seems to me reasonably minor and it was something I had to go look for, not pushed to me.

        • @mskeggs: No, I know you are not arguing (I like your informed opinions and comments), but they are advertising it in-store and in their print catalogues and on the front page of their website…

        • @resubaehtgnolhcs:
          The TGA suggests they should include an approval number if the promo has been ticked off:

          I'm pretty ambivalent on flu shots as I have said. It would be fine by me if they were posted on OzB, but I am also fine with them being banned if it holds the line on more troubling advertising.

          I also notice the TGA posts the results of complaints which I think is great for transparency and what our tax dollars should be doing, so your complaint might help clarify just where the law sits for OzB and more generally.

    • -1 vote

      I am surprised that you are leaving this post up. It is clearly a breach of the Act.

  • Anti-vax lobby, kidding. Medicine is one of those areas I'm guessing which is difficult to promote 'bargains'. Chemist Warehouse do have a good rep but ozbargain might be blamed if a customer went and something went wrong with the prescribed shot. I don't blame the mod.

  • Just another example of how useless the TGA is.
    The section they claim prohibits this behaviour is as follows:

    (1) A person must not publish or broadcast an advertisement about therapeutic goods:
    (f) that contains a statement referring to goods, or substances or preparations containing goods, included in Schedule 3, 4 or 8 to the current Poisons Standard, other than a statement authorised or required by a government or government authority (including a foreign government or foreign government authority);

    Well, flu shots are therapeutic goods and an Ozbargain post is certainly not authorised or required.
    So, is a post on Ozbargain an advertisement?
    Well, an advertisement is defined as "advertisement, in relation to therapeutic goods, includes any statement, pictorial representation or design, however made, that is intended, whether directly or indirectly, to promote the use or supply of the goods."
    Is an Ozbargain post intended (directly or indirectly) to promote the use or supply of the goods?
    I think doubtful, unless posted by a Rep. I think it is much more likely that the post is intended to inform possible customers of the best value for acquiring said goods, but neither promotes nor discourages the actual goods themselves.

    The stupid result of this dumb reading of the Act is that a therapeutic good which should be available to people at the best possible price is now a bloody secret!
    This is your tax dollars at work people.

    • Yeah I am not sure I agree with your translation around promotion. Just like most posts here, they are "promotions" that generally lead to an increase in sales (if the price is right) - as is evident by the the popularity of posts denoted by the 'positive' votes they receive.

      Whilst I agree with you that posts may intend to tell you the price of a particular good or service, this then can result in an increase in sales for the said good or service - and this is what the TGA has a problem with. Prescription medicines are unique in the sense that like you said they may "neither promotes nor discourages the actual goods themselves", as you could assume that unless you needed the medication you are unlikely to go out and seek the medication. However, as is evident in the USA, advertising prescription medications works, and people invariable end up requesting and purchasing prescription medications that they really do not need. I'd rather my tax dollar be saved here, then spent unnecessarily subsidising prescription medications for people who don't really need them.

      • To be an advertisement it must be INTENDED TO PROMOTE THE USE OR SUPPLY OF THE GOOD.
        I repeat my view that an Ozbargain post does not promote the use or supply of the good - it merely informs viewers where they can secure the good for the best price.
        The fact that sales increase is immaterial - it is the intention of the post that counts and that is merely informative as to price - not as to efficacy of the product.
        That is how I interpret the section.
        I feel much safer in my bed at night knowing that my government doesn't want me to know where I can get cheap flu shots. /sarc

    • Do you want to live in a world where pharma companies can post all day about the benefits of their pills and the risks you take by not consuming them.
      Whether you recognise it or not, you and your family's quality of life is much better for the absence of scare adverts for health products, and your tax burden is lower for the fact the sheep aren't at the bulk billed GP demanding the latest cure for GORD or whatever other made up illness of the day it is advertised this week.
      If the strictness of the law prevents an OzBargain post for flu shots I'll accept it as reasonable collateral damage.

      • This is very true, as it is pharmaceutical companies are extremely powerful and utilise the most creative methods to bypass such restrictions, such as television marketing that may go along the lines of "Reflux is a huge problem, is more common than you think and can greatly affect your quality of life. You don't have to suffer. See your GP for treatment options". At the bottom of the screen is a tiny drug company logo. The company makes the treatment for reflux. It has recently been cracked down on to some degree, but then the company would bombard GPs with direct advertising in the form as "education" such as free stationary, trips, dinners, ads on prescribing software such as MIMS etc. promoting that medication. So when the ad triggers me to make that appointment with my GP to discuss my symptoms, the GP is more likely to prescribe that medication that has been "promoted" to them (the GP may not deliberately be influenced by drug companies strategies but their compaigns have been shown to influence their decisions).

  • You don't need a prescription now though do you? You can either get a prescription pay for it and have it done for free bulk billed at the doctor or pay the pharmacy a higher price to do it without one. That's what happened last year

  • Huh, is a Vaccine even a Medicine?

  • Also keep in mind there are a couple of different types of flu shots, and though one type may be cheaper it may not be the one that covers a wider range of the flu virus - and as such there are implications on your recommendations. Yes suggesting a good deal is helpful and increasing awareness of the flu vaccine availability is great, but though my first reaction was its a bit of overkill by the TGA, they probably have it right, as it could become a slippery slope as other have mentioned like in the USA.

  • ah I posted an offer for a free flu shot voucher I have in hand, and it was immediately unpublished. This explains it. Thanks!