NARB Panel Recommends Reckitt Benckiser Discontinue Challenged ‘8-Minute’ Relief Claims for Mucinex, Maximum Strength Mucinex

New York, NY – Nov. 26,  2014 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that Reckitt Benckiser, LLC (RB) discontinue challenged advertising claims for the company’s Mucinex and Maximum Strength Mucinex bi-layer tablet products.

The claims were made in website, print, point of purchase, and television advertising and were initially challenged before the National Advertising Division (NAD) by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, manufacturer of a competing expectorant.

Claims at issue included:

  • “The only Bi-Layer Tablet proven to START in 8 MINUTES.”
  • “Only Mucinex has a bi-layer tablet. One side starts fast in 8 minutes. The other side keeps on working for 12 hours.”
  • “Mucinex extended-release bi-layer tablets start to work in 8 minutes and last for 12 hours.”

Most claims included the following disclaimer: “Based on bioavailability of guaifenesin.”

In the underlying case, NAD found that the challenged claims reasonably conveyed a message that consumers taking the Mucinex bi-layer tablet will experience perceptible symptom relief in eight minutes. NAD further found that the record did not show that consumers began to experience any symptom relief within eight minutes after ingesting the Mucinex tablet. NAD recommended that the challenged claims be discontinued and RB appealed from this recommendation.

The NARB panel noted that no consumer perception evidence was presented in this case. In the absence of consumer perception evidence, a NARB panel steps into the shoes of consumers to determine what messages are reasonably conveyed by challenged advertising.

The NARB panel agreed with the NAD that, in the context of the challenged advertisements, the promise that the Mucinex bi-layer tablet will “start,” “start fast” or “start to work” in eight minutes will likely be interpreted by a significant number of reasonable consumers as indicating that some symptom relief will begin within eight minutes.

NAD found that the disclaimer “based on bioavailability of guaifenesin” was not sufficiently prominent and that it contradicted and materially changed the main message that symptom relief would begin in eight minutes. The NARB panel, however, noted in its decision that it believed many consumers would not understand what “bioavailability” meant and would not understand that the disclaimer was intended to indicate that the only action that “starts” in eight  minutes is reaching a minimum level of Mucinex’ s active ingredient in the bloodstream. The panel found that the text of the disclaimer would not be acceptable even if it were more prominent.

The NARB panel noted that the NAD has found “fast acting” drug claims to be substantiated when they were appropriately supported with data showing fast symptom relief and/or pharmacokinetic data that was correlated with symptom relief. In this case, RB provided no evidence of fast symptom relief and no evidence that correlates the level of guaifenesin in the bloodstream with symptom relief.

Overall, the panel found that RB did not provide a reasonable basis for the reasonably conveyed message that the Mucinex bi-layer tablet provides symptom relief that starts fast and/or starts within eight minutes.

The panel recommended that RB discontinue the challenged advertising. The panel also agreed with the NAD’s recommendation that, based on the record in this case, future advertising for the Mucinex bi-layer tablet should avoid conveying an unsupported message that Mucinex provides perceptible relief for chest congestion symptoms in eight minutes.

RB, in its advertiser’s statement, took issue with NARB’s recommendations, but said that the company “respects that reasonable minds may differ and understands that the NARB panel interpreted certain elements of RB’s Mucinex advertising as implying that consumers will take away a message that they will experience perceptible symptom relief in 8 minutes. RB also appreciates NARB’s recognition of the basic advertising rule that advertising claims must be reviewed based on the context in which they appear. Accordingly, RB will take the NARB panel’s recommendations into consideration in future advertising.”