The maker of Nurofen has been charged by the Commerce Commission for misleading the public about its "specific pain range".
The commission confirmed today it was laying 10 charges against Reckitt Benckiser over the "nature, characteristics and suitability" of the product.
Eight of the charges alleged that the packaging and promotion of four different types of specific Nurofen pain-relief products - Nurofen Migraine Pain, Nurofen Tension Headache, Nurofen Period Pain and Nurofen Back Pain - were misleading.
The Commerce Commission said the advertising and packaging was misleading because the specific pain-relief products contained the same ingredients and were equally effective.
"The commission alleges that both the website and the packaging of these products gave the overall impression that the products were targeted to provide relief for a specific kind of pain. The commission alleges this was misleading because the pain specific products contained the same ingredients and were equally effective in treating any of the types of pain specified," said the watchdog.
The other two charges alleged that the advertisement of these products on the company's website was likely to mislead or deceive consumers.
Reckitt Benckiser is one of the main distributors of non-prescription painkillers in New Zealand, and also owns the Dettol and Mortein brands.
It has indicated it intends to plead guilty to the charges, which were laid under the Fair Trading Act. Products with the old packaging were removed from sale by March this year and the website pages were taken down in July.
In a statement, the company said its products for specific pain were designed for "easy navigation of pain-relief" within supermarkets, "where pharmacy support is not available".
Reckitt Benckiser said the products in question represent less than five percent of the New Zealand Nurofen range.
Pharmacy Guild's spokesperson Linda Caddick said it could be time to reconsider having these sorts of medicines available in supermarkets, where a pharmacist's advice was needed.
"If you ended up taking three times the adult doses, imagining them to be three different products, there could be quite serious consequences."