Australian wellness influencers face tough new laws

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Australia’s medical regulator has cracked down on health and wellness influencers, who will no longer be able to testify for ‘therapeutic goods’ in exchange for money or any other material benefit. However, influencing health as a practice is here to stay.

In an update to advertising guidelines that come into effect in July, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) warned that influencers involved in a company’s marketing strategy could no longer be paid to offer their own personal experience with a certain number of health products. , in order to attract their followers.

Among the products now banned from influencers are all drugs and medical devices, vitamins and supplements, and other general health products. The updated code will not apply more broadly to food and cosmetics.

More generic product placements, such as a product appearing in the background of a photo, may in some cases still be legal.

At the heart of the change is not that influencing health is now illegal, but rather that influencers will no longer be allowed to make harmful claims about the products they advertise that may not have been tested or approved. In other words: anyone on Instagram can still “endorse” a product, as long as they don’t back that endorsement up with a “testimonial”.

The regulator’s updated guidance is set to break through what has become a multi-million dollar industry in Australia, where some influencers have come to rely on shilling health and wellness products for the majority of their income.

Over the weekend, influencers on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube came outside in droves to lament the changes, saying the updated code will cripple their revenue and be a “big hit for business.” Experts, on the other hand, were unsurprisingly supportive. They said the move should go a long way to cleaning up Australia’s health information ecosystem.

Dr Ian Musgrave, senior lecturer in medicine at the University of Adelaide, said change had to come sooner or later, especially when the storm of medical misinformation and misinformation that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Until now, social media influencers have largely been left alone, but now the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has stepped in,” Dr Musgrave said.

“Any treatment (from skin cream to vitamins) that makes a therapeutic claim is regulated by the TGA, and there are strict rules regarding the advertising of therapeutic products. Now the TGA is turning its attention to influencers, who at from July 1 will be prohibited from promoting health products if paid or incentivized, including receiving gifted products,” he said.

“While it may seem heavy-handed, advertising therapeutic products, even as innocuous as sunscreen, requires high ethical standards.”

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