Medical Advertising Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals

Doctor discussing medical results with female patient

The Medical Board of Australia highlights that promotional material advertising regulated health services must comply with section 133 of the National Law. Regulated health service refers to a service provided by, or usually provided by, a health practitioner.

Section 133 of the National Law states that regulated health services must not be advertised in a way that is false, misleading or deceptive, or likely to be perceived as such; and promotional material must not offer a gift, discount or other inducement without also stating the terms and conditions of the offer.


Further, medical advertising should not use testimonials or create an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment. Neither should it encourage the unnecessary or indiscriminate use of regulated health services.

A breach of restrictions pertaining to medical marketing is a criminal offence and failure to comply with the regulations can result in a fine. The maximum penalty for an individual health practitioner is $5,000; the maximum fine for a body corporate is $10,000. Current or previously registered health practitioners may also be subject to disciplinary action for unprofessional conduct.

There are 14 National Boards responsible for registering practitioners and students, and managing notifications about the health, conduct or performance of practitioners. The National Boards have jointly developed guidelines to help practitioners understand their obligations around medical marketing including on social media, blogs and websites.

The guidelines were issued in 20 May 2014, they contain definitions, describe medical marketing that is prohibited and explain the consequences of a breach of the advertising provisions of the National law. The medical advertising guidelines do not prevent patients and members of the community discussing their experiences either online or in person.

In addition to explaining the restrictions of the National Law, the medical advertising guidelines also suggest using caution when choosing to use graphics or visual representations in advertising and provide an example of warning text to be used where a surgical procedure is advertised directly to the public.

Advertisements referring to medicines, medical devices, biological, and blood products are subject to the requirements of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 and may require approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Factual information such as contact details, opening hours, qualifications and experience can assist consumers to make informed choices but it is recommended those planning medical marketing access the guidelines to determine the appropriate use of titles.

The full Guidelines for advertising regulated health services can be found on the Medical Board of Australia’s website. Advertisers of regulated health services must also comply with any other applicable legislation, such as the Australian Consumer Law which commenced 1 January 2011 and which is overseen by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

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