NAD Recommends Chattem Discontinue Consumer-Preference Claims for ‘Nasacort,’ Following GSK Challenge

New York, NY – Sept. 10, 2015 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Chattem, Inc., discontinue consumer-preference claims in television and radio advertising that compare Chattem’s allergy relief product Nasacort to Flonase, a competing product produced by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare LP. Chattem has said it will appeal certain of NAD’s adverse findings to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

GSK challenged express claims that included:

  • “In a head-to-head clinical study, people preferred Nasacort to FLONASE.”
  • “In a recent clinical study with Nasacort going nose-to-nose with Flonase, more people preferred Nasacort.”
  • “For Allergy Relief Nasacort Stops more of What Makes you Miserable.”
  • FLONASE “stings.”
  • FLONASE has an “unpleasant smell.”

NAD also considered whether the challenged advertising implied that:

  • Nasacort provides greater or better relief of allergy symptoms, including nasal congestion, than FLONASE.
  • People prefer Nasacort to FLONASE because it has no scent, no harsh taste and is alcohol-free.
  • FLONASE has an unpleasant taste and smell.
  • The taste of FLONASE is significantly more unpleasant than the taste of Nasacort.
  • It is not worth trying FLONASE for relief of allergy symptoms because the experience is as miserable, or almost miserable, as the allergy symptoms themselves.
  • Nasacort is safer to use than FLONASE.
  • Patients who use FLONASE are less likely or unlikely to comply with their doctor’s recommendations and dosing regimen.

At the outset, NAD noted that the advertiser represented in writing that it had permanently discontinued the following claims prior to the commencement of the challenge:

  • Flonase “stings” while Nasacort doesn’t
  • Flonase “smells” while Nasacort “doesn’t”
  • Nasacort is the “only” corticosteroid nasal spray “available over the counter at full prescription strength”
  • The unqualified use of the statement “For Allergy relief Nasacort Stops More Of What Makes You Miserable.”

NAD administratively closed its inquiry into those claims.

During the course of its review, NAD determined that the juxtaposition of the consumer-preference language with specific sensory attributes – no scent, no alcohol, no harsh taste – in the challenged advertising reasonably conveyed that those sensory attributes formed the basis for the challenged preference claims  and a key issue was NAD’s review of the 2014 consumer preference testing offered by the advertiser as support for its claims.

NAD initially determined that the advertiser’s 2014 study should comport with industry guidance – specifically ASTM standards – on sensory claim substantiation.

Through its evaluation of the 2014 study, NAD determined that the inclusion of subjects who were asymptomatic at the time of testing was inappropriate, found that the total number of subjects fell short of the minimum number of respondents needed to support the challenged superior preference claim and determined that the survey’s preference question did not ascertain the basis for the subjects’ preference or include a “no preference” option in accordance with industry guidance.

NAD also determined that other studies assessing the sensory attributes of Nasacort and Flonase were not sufficiently reliable to support the message reasonably conveyed by the challenged advertising – that people preferred Nasacort over Flonase based on the sensory attributes mentioned and/or displayed. Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD recommended the advertiser discontinue its consumer preference claims, including the claim: “In a recent clinical study with Nasacort going nose-to-nose with Flonase, more people preferred Nasacort.”

NAD recommended that a comparison chart featured in television advertising be modified to remove “harsh taste.”

NAD further recommended that a television commercial entitled “Preferred” be modified to avoid conveying the unsupported message that taking Flonase is a miserable experience.  As to the “Change Your Way” commercial, NAD recommended that it be discontinued to remove the reference to Flonase to avoid conveying the unsupported message that Nasacort is superior in providing relief of nasal allergy symptoms.

NAD determined that the challenged television commercials did not reasonably imply that Nasacort is safer to use than Flonase or that patients who use Flonase are less likely (or unlikely) to comply with their doctor’s recommendations and dosing regimen.

NAD noted that nothing in its decision precluded the advertiser from promoting that Nasacort is scent- and alcohol-free and said the  advertiser is free to communicate that stinging or sneezing and a bad taste or smell are possible side effects, i.e., they may not occur each time a consumer uses Flonase.

Chattem, in its advertiser’s statement said it would appeal “the NAD decision regarding the claims that (1) people prefer Nasacort over Flonase and (2) people prefer Nasacort over Flonase because, unlike Flonase, Nasacort is scent and alcohol-free.  Chattem respectfully disagrees with NAD’s determinations regarding the harsh taste associated with Flonase and the other implied claims allegedly conveyed by the advertising, but will take the NAD’s recommendations regarding those claims into consideration in future advertising.”