Clothing company Lorna Jane has been fined $40,000 for claiming it sold "anti-virus activewear".
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) last week issued three infringement notices totalling $39,960 to the Brisbane clothing company for alleged unlawful advertising in relation to COVID-19.
Lorna Jane allegedly claimed on its website that its "anti-virus activewear" prevents and protects against infectious diseases, which the TGA held implied it is effective against COVID-19.
The website said that any bacteria “is terminated when it comes in touch” with a product applied to the fabric.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) spoke out on the claims, warning consumers to be wary.
RACGP president Dr Harry Nespolon said: “Active wear is great for the gym but it can’t protect you against viruses or bacteria. I suspect Lorna Jane are cynically trying to exploit fears concerning the COVID-19 pandemic to sell clothes.
“If you spray their product onto any fabric and expect that it will act as a ‘shield of protection’ for you by breaking through the ‘membrane shell of any toxic diseases’ I have some bad news for you – this will not happen. The only thing that will be ‘terminated’ by the ‘shield particles’ is the money in your bank account.”
Nespolon said such marketing could lull people into a false sense of security and make them less vigilant against the virus.
In a statement, a Lorna Jane spokesperson said: “Our testing shows that LJ Shield is an important part of stopping the spread of both bacteria and viral infections and should be used in combination with other precautionary measures such as face masks and thorough and frequent hand washing.”
In a piece written for The Conversation, Catherine Burke, a senior Lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney, said there was no evidence the Lorna Jane’s product will work against viruses.
“Even if the … fabric is antibacterial, there’s no evidence to suggest this product affects the survival of viruses, including the one that causes COVID-19.
“Many antimicrobial products exist on the market. The important question for me isn’t so much whether they can kill microorganisms, but whether using those products actually reduces your risk of getting sick. In many cases, the answer is no.”
As for whether antimicrobial materials in general work as intended, Burke pointed to one randomised trial that found they were not effective at reducing the numbers of bacteria on hospital scrubs.
"So even in a healthcare environment where the risk of infection is higher than in the community, the effectiveness of antimicrobial materials for reducing transmission remains to be confirmed," she said.
The TGA alleged that Lorna Jane represented its 'anti-virus activewear' for therapeutic use and therefore believes that it is a therapeutic good within the meaning of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, and as such, should have complied with appropriate regulations.
The regulatory body issued a warning to advertisers and consumers about illegal advertising of therapeutic goods, saying it will take action where appropriate.
Adjunct Professor John Skerritt, deputy secretary of the Department of Health – where the TGA sits – echoed Nespolon’s concern about the impact of anti-virus claims: “This kind of advertising could have detrimental consequences for the Australian community, creating a false sense of security and leading people to be less vigilant about hygiene and social distancing.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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