Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC was ordered to withdraw the majority of its Nurofen painkillers from Australian shelves after a federal court ruled Monday that the British drugmaker misled customers by marketing identical products to treat specific types of pain. The court said that the pharmaceutical company must remove the products within three months.
The court said in its ruling that the Nurofen Back Pain, Period Pain, Migraine Pain and Tension Headache products were identical and that the company had "engaged in misleading conduct" by marketing them for different ailments.
Reckitt Benckiser said that the ruling related only to Australia, and would not be applicable in other countries, including the U.K., BBC reported.
The matter was brought to court in March by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), which sought “penalties and costs” over the false claims.
The consumer watchdog said in a statement Monday that the Nurofen specific pain product range -- painkillers for back pain, migraine, headache and periods -- were sold at nearly double the price of its standard painkiller and pain relief medicines from its rivals. All specific pain products were found to contain the same active ingredient, 342 milligrams of ibuprofen lysine, it added.
The drugmaker was also ordered to publish website and newspaper articles to clarify the status of the drugs, set up a consumer protection compliance program and pay the ACCC's legal costs. A date will be announced later by the court to decide on the fine.
“The ACCC took these proceedings because it was concerned that consumers may have purchased these products in the belief that they specifically treated a certain type of pain, based on the representations on the packaging, when this was not the case,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in the statement.
However, Nurofen spokeswoman Montse Pena said in a statement Monday that the company did not mislead its consumers. Pena said that Nurofen's specific range was launched to help customers work out their pain relief options, “particularly within the grocery environment where there is no healthcare professional to assist decision making,” according to Sky News Australia.
“Nurofen has cooperated with the ACCC in relation to these proceedings and will fully comply with the court order made today,” Pena said.