Bioglan’s profiteering from Swine Flu fear

Isn’t it amazing how a crisis brings out the worst in some companies. I’m referring here to the advertisement by Bioglan in today’s Australian.

Bioglan, a company which manufactures vitamin and nutritional supplements, has taken out a full-page, yes, full-page ad in an Australian newspaper (or newspapers?) to flog its Airborne Immunity formula. The ad describes the dangers of airborne pathogens (germs and viruses) in a enclosed area such as a train. It then claims that its specially formulated tablets will boost immunity. Sounds pretty good so far and then it goes on to inform you that you can purchase these tablets in stores as well as SURPRISE, SURPRISE http://www.flustop.com.au.

I phoned Bioglan and asked them if these tablets can stop the flu, especially the Swine Flu. They said no, but that the tablets would make you feel better once you had the flu. But that’s not what the ad implied. It implied Airborne Immunity which is the name of the product. The ad strongly implied that Airborne Immunity will stop Swine Flu without actually saying so.

I can just see the advertising gurus at Bioglan rubbing their hands together and discussing how far they can go in promoting their Immunity tablets now that there is the danger of Swine Flu becoming an epidemic here. They must have thought they could play on the fears of the public enough to warrant paying tens of thousands of dollars on these huge, huge, newspaper ads.

What I am worried about is that some child will become very ill with flu and his parents will buy this concoction of Bioglan instead of going to the doctor. And then it will be too late. After all, it did say “Flustop” didn’t it at the bottom of the ad?

I wrote a letter of complaint about it to the editor of The Australian:

I am extremely horrified by the full-page ad for Bioglan’s “Airborne Immunity” supplement on page 8 in The Australian today. I have nothing against the company and have used Bioglan vitamins in the past.

Nevertheless, an ad that creates the impression that one is protected from sneezing and coughing pathogens by taking some over-the-counter tablets is reckless, to say the least. At a time when the Health Minister is warning us to be careful about an airborne virus, the Swine Flu, it is dangerous to suggest that an over-the-counter supplement can protect you even in a crowded train as shown in the ad.

I realise that Bioglan have been very careful with their wording but they do include a website http://www.flustop.com.au which does not exist. (Since then it has appeared and is an ad for Bioglan)

What message does the term “Flustop” convey to you?

I am very concerned that the public will believe that it is protected from such airborne pathogens by simply taking these tablets. Furthermore, I am seriously concerned that parents will give these to their children instead of taking them to the doctor. This postponement in seeking medical attention could delay appropriate treatment by offering a false sense of security.

A person from The Australian phoned me to explain that they aren’t responsible for the ads owing to freedom of information legislation. I asked him why Bioglan didn’t include a warning to say that “Airborne Immunity” cannot prevent Swine Flu. He was between a rock and a hard place. Newspapers are suffering a loss of revenue. They need advertising material. It’s always about the money, isn’t it? He did end by saying he hopes that I don’t give up the good fight.

My hope is that the public will complain about Bioglan’s unethical preying upon fears of the epidemic. To use terminology like ‘Will you be next?” in their advertising about the dangers of airborne pathogens may increase sales but I certainly can no longer respect a company which promotes panic for financial gain. It stinks of predatory behaviour.

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