Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency warns health professionals about their advertising

The advertising restrictions in the National Law, including the prohibition on using testimonials, apply to anyone advertising a regulated health service (a service provided by a health practitioner).

Registered practitioners must not advertise health benefits of their services when there is not clear evidence or proof that these benefits can be achieved. This is because such advertising statements are likely to be misleading or deceptive. Advertising that is false, misleading or deceptive, or advertising that is likely to be misleading or deceptive, is banned under the National Law.

The National Law also prohibits advertising that creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment. The claims of beneficial treatment can range from unsubstantiated scientific claims through to ‘miracle cures’.

Statutory offences – an example of the National Law

An example of where a registered chiropractor has been the subject of tribunal or court findings about breaches of advertising requirements is the case of Dr Malcolm Hooper, a formerly registered chiropractor.

In this case, the Board used its powers under the National Law and referred Dr Hooper to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

VCAT found that Dr Hooper’s claims on his website about hyperbaric oxygen treatment were misleading and deceptive because he did not present a balanced view about the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen treatment for specified conditions, including that such treatment was not conventionally used in Australia and in western countries with a comparable health service culture and was not supported by medical and scientific evidence.