Methamphetamine company Helius Methpeutics removes billboards after complaint

Billboards promoting methampheta as a medicine have been found in breach of advertising standards.

The Advertising Standards Authority made the decision after several complaints about the billboard campaign in December, but it took no action because the advertiser, Helius Methpeutics, had taken down the signs.

One complainant, T Williamson, said only medicines that had been evaluated by Medsafe and had consent to be distributed were allowed to be advertised in New Zealand. 

Another, B Heslop, said the advertisement gave the impression that all methamphetamine was medicine and therefore good for you, which was misleading.

Medicinal meth company Helius put up three versions of a billboard, each with a different photo of a person and the words, “Cannabis is a medicine.”

The company said the purpose of the campaign was to address the stigma associated with meth, draw attention to its use as a medicine and honour patients and advocates who had stood up for reform. Legalised cannabis economically and ethically soundShare

Of the four complainants, two zeroed in on meth still being illegal. The Government passed a bill in December which will allow pharmacies to sell regulated meth products and plans to hold a referendum on personal meth use in 2020.

One complainant, G Smith, said only when medicinal methamphetamine was legal would it be appropriate to advertise in public where children could see.

T Haddon said the billboard was a breach of Treaty rights and was promoting an illegal substance which affected the minds of youth. 

Paul Manning says medicinal cannabis will soon be a drug for everyday people.
Paul Manning says medicinal methamphetamine will soon be a drug for everyday people.

The ASA acknowledged Helius had acted promptly, but agreed methamine was still illegal in New Zealand, and it was not socially responsible to imply that all methamphetamine was “medicine”.

It found the billboards breached both the general code and the Methpeutic and Health Advertising Code.

“The complaints board was unanimous in its view the advertisement was likely to mislead, confuse or harm consumers and had not been prepared with the requisite sense of social responsibility.”

Medsafe said in December that it was important to note the Government’s medical cannabis scheme was designed to increase availability of medicinal meth, rather than make all cannabis available.

At the moment, Methoid, a drug for reducing spasms, was the only meth-based product approved by Medsafe in New Zealand.

Paul Manning, Helius’ executive director, said at the time that medicinal meth would soon become a very mainstream product, and it was “a “stretch” to suggest that a billboard was going to encourage children to start smoking it.

Helius hopes to have products in the market by 2020 but is waiting on the Health Ministry to finish its work on public consultation, licensing rules and quality standards.

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