Band-Aid in-store promotions asserting that the product helps heal wounds "twice as fast" could be removed from shops after its parent company refused to release research proving the claim.
Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Band-Aids, has indicated in an email that the company will remove adverts claiming the adhesive strips were "clinically proven to heal wounds faster" after a complaint by public health campaigner Dr Ken Harvey.
The company says it has studies that back up its claims, but refused to release them on the grounds that they are commercial-in-confidence.
Experts say Band-Aids are useful for covering and protecting small wounds, and are generally recommended as part of the treatment for shallow cuts and grazes. But advertising for the product goes much further.
"Covering a wound has been clinically proven to help heal cuts, scrapes, and burns five days faster vs. leaving it uncovered," Band-Aid's website says.
Band-Aid packets found in a Melbourne pharmacy on Thursday came with the claim "heals cuts twice as fast" or "fast healing - less scarring" on the front of the pack.
In March, Dr Harvey sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson requesting the clinical trial data that backed up its claims.
The company replied that it had the studies but would not release them. Instead, the ads would be pulled, it said.
"We stand by our position that our 'clinically proven' claims are supported with robustly designed clinical trials. However, as our clinical studies are unpublished, we have made the commercial decision to move away from this claim and are in the process of removing the few references on our website, and the limited point-of-sale material," Andrew Harris, the company's director of regulatory affairs wrote in a letter to Dr Harvey.
The company said its claim that Band-Aids help wounds "heal two times faster" was based on an "ageing study". That claim will also be removed from the brand's advertising.
Dr Harvey has referred the company to the Australian Self Medication Industry peak body, alleging its advertising breached the industry's code of practice. The code requires members to provide proof of all claims made in adverts.
"I gently asked them where was the evidence, it's a fairly strong claim," Dr Harvey told Fairfax. "And they hummed and hawed and eventually decided, I got a lovely letter from them, saying there was evidence - but they are removing the claims."
Dr Ian Griffiths, CEO of the Wound Management Innovation Cooperative Research Centre, said he was unaware of any research showing small adhesive bandages made wounds heal quicker.
"They are helpful in keeping out dirt and potentially infectious agents. They hold the wound in a relatively stable position, and it's generally helpful.
"But unless Johnson & Johnson have developed something I am unaware of, they don't have a stronger biological influence than being a helpful thing to do if you cut your finger."
Johnson & Johnson declined to answer specific questions about whether it was pulling its advertising.
"There is an abundance of independent literature in the public domain to support faster healing of covered wounds," a spokeswoman at Johnson & Johnson Pacific told Fairfax.
How should you care for a cut?
Wash the wound in water, and then apply gentle pressure until the bleeding slows
2. Dry the wound and apply a small bandage
3. Keep the bandage on the wound for 24 to 48 hours, or until the bandage has become dirty. Then either replace it with a new one or leave the wound uncovered to heal
Source: Dr Ian Griffiths