AMA warns doctors against promoting treatments for wrinkles and hair loss

Cosmetic dermatology

By Michael Woodhead

3 Mar 2021

The AMA has warned doctors against using advertising, websites and social media to promote treatment of wrinkles and hair loss or encourage unrealistic body images.

Releasing the AMA Position Statement on Advertising and Public Endorsement, AMA President Dr Khorshid said doctors should avoid any messages that medicalise and commercialise the normal human experience.

“Inappropriate advertising can lead people to use products or services indiscriminately or unnecessarily, potentially resulting in physical, psychological or financial harm,” Dr Khorshid said.

“The AMA is troubled by medical advertising practices that promote unrealistic body images, particularly where these concerns relate to common features of the human lifecycle.

“Wrinkles, loose skin, and baldness are part of the natural ageing process, and emotions such as grief and day-to-day worries are not necessarily pathological conditions requiring medical treatment.

“The AMA is increasingly concerned about advertising practices that seek to make people think that these are pathological conditions requiring treatment. This can lead vulnerable people to seek unnecessary treatments, and can contribute to poor mental health.

“Doctors should not promote products or services in a manner that encourages unnecessary medical consumerism or encourages individuals to view their personal experiences and appearance through a medical lens.”

Dr Khorshid also warned doctors to be cautious about the content posted on their social media sites and to consider disabling comments to avoid being prosecuted for using testimonials.

“The interactive nature of social media platforms allows doctors to provide real-time information on changes to practice arrangements or to raise particular public health concerns,” Dr Khorshid said.

“But the doctor is ultimately responsible for all content posted on their social media accounts, including posts by other people, including patients.

“A positive comment from a patient about their doctor may be considered a testimonial, which is prohibited under the National Law. It may be worth disabling the ability for third parties to post comments on their own social media accounts.”

The Position Statement has been revised to reflect the professional obligations set out by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and other relevant agencies.

It also provides guidance to doctors in achieving high standards of ethical behaviour in relation to advertising and endorsement of products and services.

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