The Menopause Institute of Australia has admitted misleading and deceiving its patients and potential customers about the safety and effectiveness of its Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy Program for the treatment of menopause, as part of a court settlement.
The Menopause Institute and its managing director at the time of the relevant conduct, Dr Gary Aaron, have also consented to a range of other remedies as part of the settlement.
The ACCC instituted legal proceedings in the Federal Court in July this year alleging that the Menopause Institute had breached section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 by making misleading and deceptive representations about:
- the safety and effectiveness of its NHRT program as a treatment for symptoms of menopause and other diseases, and
- the safety and effectiveness of NHRT in comparison to conventional HRT.
The ACCC alleged that numerous representations made by Menopause Institute were misleading or deceptive, including that NHRT:
- reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and senility
- is without dangerous, unwanted, reported or any side effects
- treats osteoporosis, premenstrual syndrome and loss of libido
- has a reduced risk of breast cancer and stroke in comparison to conventional HRT because NHRT uses bio-identical hormones
- is proving to be much safer than conventional HRT
- is just as effective as conventional HRT, and
- does not have any of the risks of conventional HRT.
The ACCC has also taken proceedings against Dr Gary Aaron for his involvement in the contraventions.
The Menopause Institute has admitted, for the purposes of the proceedings, that approximately 75 separate medical claims made by the company in a variety of media were misleading and deceptive. These misrepresentations appeared in the following media:
- advertisements published in the Sun-Herald and Sunday Telegraph
- television and radio commercials
- brochures and other promotional material provided to prospective and current patients of Menopause Institute
- on the Menopause Institute's website (www.menopauseinstitute.com.au).
The Menopause Institute and Dr Aaron also consented to wide ranging injunctions to prevent a repetition of these representations for a period of three years.
The ACCC also required the Menopause Institute to undertake corrective measures to alert its former and current patients about the potentially misleading representations which the Menopause Institute made about the safety and effectiveness of its menopause treatments, being to:
- publish corrective notices in the Sun-Herald and Sunday Telegraph
- publish a corrective notice on the Menopause Institute's website (www.menopauseinstitute.com.au for a period of three months
- provide letters to all patients who received treatment from the Menopause Institute from September 2003 until September 2006.
The Menopause Institute was also ordered to pay the ACCC's costs of $50,000.
"The ACCC pursued this matter because of its serious concerns about the representations being made by the Menopause Institute concerning the safety and effectiveness of its menopause treatments", ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today. "In the ACCC's view the claims being made by the Menopause Institute were blatantly misleading and deceptive.
"Furthermore, the ACCC was concerned that a number of the Menopause Institute's misrepresentations about the safety of their treatments, including the claimed absence of side-effects, may have exposed their patients to serious risks.
"Companies which seek to make claims about the efficacy of their treatments must ensure that they have a reasonable basis for making such claims. The ACCC will take appropriate action, including legal action, against any company which make exaggerated and unsupportable medical claims.
"In the present case the ACCC was also determined to ensure that the Menopause Institute take all steps necessary to adequately warn their patients about the health risks. Without such corrective measures these patients may have remained unaware of the serious medical risks of Menopause Institute's NHRT treatments".
Use this form to make a general enquiry.