Revised: 20 November 2013

Weight Management / Weight Loss Products

Since the Ministry of Health review of advertising requirements for medicines in New Zealand there has been a tightening of controls to reflect its findings. Particular attention has been paid to the advertising of products for weight management. Recently new medicines have been registered for weight loss and this has also focused attention on the area and highlighted the fact that there are other products being advertised about which therapeutic claims for weight loss are made. These other products have not been granted consent to be distributed or to make those claims.

The Therapeutic Advertising Pre Vetting Service has been set up by the Advertising Standards Authority to provide industry with a tool to assist companies to comply with the advertising requirements of the medicines legislation, and these guidelines have also been developed to assist advertisers.

The rules are simple, if an advertiser wishes to claim that a product induces weight loss then that product must have consent to be distributed in New Zealand, and be registered as a medicine. The distributor must make the decision whether to promote his product as a medicine and make a permitted weight loss claim, or whether to promote it as a weight management product and not make a weight loss claim - before entering the market.

These guidelines will assist advertisers and distributors in making that decision.


A 'medicine' is defined as a substance or article other than a medical device that is manufactured, imported, sold or supplied wholly or principally for administering to one or more human beings for a therapeutic purpose . Section 3, Medicines Act 1981

'Therapeutic purpose' includes:

  1. Altering the shape, structure, size, or weight of the human body.
  2. Otherwise preventing or interfering with the normal operation of a physiological function, whether permanently of temporarily, and whether by way of terminating or reducing or postponing, or increasing or accelerating, the operation of that function, or in any other way.
Section 4, Medicines Act 1981

A weight loss product clearly has a therapeutic purpose and is considered to be a medicine.

NB. Obesity is a condition listed in Part II of the First Schedule to the Medicines Act 1981.

The distribution and sale of a medicine (i.e. a product intended for a therapeutic purpose) without the consent of the Minister of Health is an offence under Section 20 of the Medicines Act 1981. You are not able to make therapeutic claims for a product unless it has the Minister's consent to be distributed as a medicine.

In the case of a non-compliant advertisement for a medicine, both the advertiser and the publisher can be liable under Sections 57, 58 and 59 of the Medicines Act 1981.


The labeling and promotion of products intended for weight management should not represent the product as having a therapeutic purpose. This means they may not:

  1. Alter the shape, structure, size or weight of the human body (cause weight loss), or
  2. Speed up the metabolism or
  3. Suppress the appetite

nor may they claim to do so.

Consideration should be given to the following:

Note: Weight loss products that have consent to be distributed as medicines should comply with the Guidelines for Advertising Prescription Medicines Direct to the Consumer OR The Guidelines for Advertising Over the Counter Medicines Direct to the Consumer, whichever is appropriate.

Relevant Industry Codes of Practice

It is recommended that advertisers consult the following self-regulatory Codes of Practice:

Advertisements for weight management/weight loss products need to be pre-vetted for compliance with legislative and industry code requirements. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Code is based on agreement between the ASA and the organisations that represent the media in which the advertisements are published. In association with the ASA, one of the contributing members, the Association of New Zealand Advertisers (ANZA) has set up the Therapeutic Advertising Pre-vetting System (TAPS) to provide this service. Organisations must first register with ANZA, PO Box 9348, Newmarket, Auckland, phone 64 9 300 5932 in order to use the TAPS service.

Contact details for TAPS are:

Nigel Andrews
LAPS & TAPS Adjudicator
43 Tirohunga Drive
Waitakere 0612
Ph (09) 836 2680
Fax (09) 837 5057


Peter Pratt
96 Hazelwood Ave
Ph (04) 938 6409
Fax (04) 934 6409
Mobile 027 4921230