NAD Recommends P&G Discontinue “2X Strength Per Caplet” Claim for Pepto Bismol Ultra, Following Challenge by GSK

New York, NY – Sept. 26, 2019 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that The Procter & Gamble Company discontinue its “2X Strength per ounce,” “2X Strength per caplet,” and “Ultra Coat” claims for Pepto Bismol Ultra, following a challenge by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, the maker of competing TUMS antacid products.  NAD did not, however, find any basis to recommend a name change for the Pepto Bismol Ultra product.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB NP’s self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

The claims at issue, appearing on packaging, in online advertising, and on third party retail websites, included:

Express claims:

  • “Pepto Bismol Ultra.”
  • “Ultra Strength relief for upset stomachs.”
  • “When you’re in need of ultra strength for your digestive upsets, this is your Pepto-Bismol.”

Implied claims:

  • Pepto Bismol has greater strength (i.e., delivers more of the active ingredient per dose) than regular Pepto Bismol.
  • Pepto Ultra has greater efficacy and/or provides greater relief than regular Pepto Bismol, specifically calling out its applicability in times of great need, i.e., “[w]hen you’re in need of ultra strength.”

Pepto Bismol Ultra (“Pepto Ultra”) is an OTC drug, available in liquid and caplet form, designed to treat various digestive conditions.  Pepto Ultra is marketed alongside the original version of Pepto Bismol (“Pepto Original”).  Both products contain the same amount of active ingredient – 525mg bismuth subsalicylate per dose – however, Pepto Ultra is delivered in a more concentrated strength form. Pepto Ultra and Pepto Original deliver the same strength per dose and are equally effective, but consumers are instructed to take a smaller dose of the more concentrated Pepto Ultra product. 

At issue before NAD was whether Pepto Ultra’s product name, packaging and other advertising communicate to consumers the misleading messages that Pepto Ultra has greater strength (i.e., more of the active ingredient per dose) or is more effective than Pepto Original.

The advertiser informed NAD in writing that it had permanently discontinued the claims “[u]ltra strength relief for upset stomachs,” and “[w]hen you’re in need of ultra strength for your digestive upsets, this is your Pepto-Bismol.”  NAD, relying on the advertiser’s representation that the claims have been permanently discontinued, did not review the claims on their merits.  However, the voluntarily discontinued claims will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended their discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.

With regard to the Pepto Ultra product name standing alone, NAD found that “Ultra” by itself does not literally express, in a clear, specific or objectively provable way, that Pepto Ultra has greater strength per dose or greater symptom relief than Pepto Original.  Given the lack of extrinsic evidence of consumer confusion and absence of an expressly false claim, NAD determined that there was no basis to recommend a product name change. 

NAD recommended that the “2X Strength per ounce” and “2X Strength per caplet” claims be discontinued because they convey the unsupported message that Pepto Bismol Ultra has twice the strength per dose and is more effective than the original version of the product.  NAD noted that nothing in the four corners of the challenged advertising (i.e., the front of the product packaging) clearly and conspicuously informs consumers that “2X strength” means that Pepto Ultra is twice as concentrated as Pepto Original, thereby allowing consumers to take a smaller dose and receive the same symptom relief.

Finally, NAD recommended that P&G discontinue its “Ultra Coat” claim because it conveys the unsupported message that Pepto Bismol Ultra delivers increased or superior stomach coating as compared to the original product. Although P&G pointed to evidence that Pepto Ultra has increased viscosity as compared to Pepto Original, NAD determined that this data did not reliably demonstrate that a higher viscosity score translates into an increased or superior coating action that is meaningful to consumers.  In its advertiser’s statement, P&G stated that it “agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations regarding advertising for its Pepto Ultra product.”