How To Prevent Healthcare Ad Restrictions in Google and Meta

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Chad G. Peterson
April 8, 2024

One of the worst feelings is working diligently on a digital marketing campaign only to have it result in blocked ads, downtime, even account suspensions, and fewer patients. Not knowing how to get healthcare ads approved after disapproval or which words to avoid to ensure pages meet specific requirements in the healthcare ad space is incredibly stressful.

Each online advertising platform has its own set of healthcare advertising regulations to prevent advertisers from promoting illegal, restricted, or unsafe products to users. These rules vary by drug type, such as prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, experimental medical treatments, CBD, supplements, and more. They also encompass services like telemedicine.

This article explores each platform’s healthcare ad regulations, aiding advertisers like you in crafting effective and compliant healthcare campaigns.

Consider what type of drug you are advertising

Regulations can be particularly strict for prescription drugs, requiring thorough vetting and adherence to guidelines. On the other hand, over-the-counter medications face their own set of limitations, often requiring clear disclaimers. Review Google’s most up-to-date healthcare ad policy regularly because the rules change. 

If your ad doesn’t fall under prescription or nonprescription drugs, you might be dealing with speculative medications, supplements, or CBD. While seemingly more relaxed, each of these still requires compliance with regulations regarding health claims and ingredient disclosures.

Depending on the product, sellers may have restrictions to advertise only in certain U.S. states or countries and may need specific certifications.

Prescription drugs

Google and Meta prohibit referencing prescription drugs unless certified by Google or Meta.

Healthcare companies that want to advertise prescription drugs must obtain certification through LegitScript Healthcare Merchant Certification or the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) certification. Google and Meta will only take certifications from these companies. Similarly, promoting healthcare insurance requires certification by G2 Health Insurance Advertiser, ensuring compliance with platform policies and industry standards.

This list of keywords falls under Google’s prescription drug regulations. It requires certification to use them in keyword targeting, ad copy, landing pages, or within three clicks of a landing page.

If you’re not certified, you must use a standalone landing page for your ads that don’t contain the keywords and don’t link to the rest of your website to run ads for other products. You won’t be able to run ads for these drugs but may still be able to for different medicines or healthcare products and services without certification.

You can’t advertise for prescription drug keywords, use them in your ad copy, or have them on your landing page without certification—even if you are not advertising those drugs.

Over-the-Counter drugs

Google’s transparency page clearly explains OTC drugs.

Take note of the variances in Google’s ad policy for nonprescription drugs from what we previously mentioned with prescription drugs. While prescription drugs require certification, “in the United States, no certification is required for the promotion of over-the-counter medication.”

When advertising OTC products, however, be sure to separate them from any prescription drug mentioned on your website. Creating a standalone ad landing page that ensures no direct link to other parts of your website is a wise approach if you also sell prescription drugs. Additionally, OTC drugs must display their license number to meet regulatory requirements.

Experimental medical treatments

Experimental medical treatments (or speculative medical treatments) are innovative approaches to healthcare that still need to be fully established or widely accepted within the medical community.

Advertising platforms like Google and Meta have policies prohibiting ads for speculative and experimental medical treatments, including cell therapies and gene therapies. However, there’s an exception for treatments with FDA licenses or approvals, indicating a certain level of credibility and safety. If your treatment includes drug therapy, it must be certified in the same manner as prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or supplements.

This case study demonstrates the opportunity for improving campaigns through careful healthcare ad strategy and planning from diligent ad campaign planning and management.

CBD, pharmaceuticals, or supplements

CBD, pharmaceuticals, and supplements are becoming more relevant in today’s holistic health world. Unlike Google, Meta Ads doesn’t have a predefined list of restricted items, which leaves the interpretation to Meta’s discretion.

Meta Ads reserves the authority to disapprove pharmaceutical or supplement ads it deems hazardous. Google has a comprehensive list of supplements it doesn’t allow on its platform, including weight-loss drugs, ephedra, and anabolic steroids.

CBD advertisers on Google and Meta must have LegitScript certification, even for non-pharmaceutical, topical CBD products. They’re only permitted to display ads in California, Colorado, and Puerto Rico in the United States as of April 2024. These restrictions may change over time.

This policy applies to mentioning CBD within three clicks of your landing page for ads for other products. If you mention CBD products on your website, you’ll need to create a standalone landing page for your Google Ads that doesn’t link to the rest of your website to advertise your approved products.

Google Ads healthcare advertising regulations

If you are wondering how to use Google Ads to promote your healthcare business, Google’s list of healthcare regulations is valuable. Google Ads are essential to a successful healthcare marketing plan because they allow you to target users looking for your products online. However, you want to make sure your Google Ads are approved and your account is not suspended due to restricted drugs.

Along with clarifying the regulations for the drug categories, Google’s healthcare regulations offer more examples of restricted products in detail, such as animal-related drugs, prescription opioids, HIV home tests, birth control, and more. Each has a detailed paragraph and helpful graphics.

Near the bottom of their guidelines are examples of disapprovals and how to troubleshoot them to get your ads approved and your account unsuspended.

In summary, advertisers should:

  • Get certified to advertise for prescription drug services (online pharmacy, telemedicine)
  • Include the license number for OTC drugs
  • Make sure your ad targets allowed states or countries
  • Use a standalone landing page if non-approved drugs or supplements appear on your website

Meta healthcare advertising policy

Meta is a popular social media advertising platform for healthcare ads. Meta’s regulations differ from Google’s, which can be trickier since Meta doesn’t provide a clear list of restricted drugs and products. In addition to specific drug restrictions, Meta’s Transparency Center has a section on personal health and appearance to help advertisers comply with rules.

Meta states, “Advertisers can’t run ads for health or appearance-related products that imply or attempt to generate negative self-perception.” For instance, you can’t tell viewers they need to lose weight with your product (because it implies they’re overweight). Advertisers must also exclude copy like, “We can help you lose weight” or “Do you have eczema?” 

Let’s break this down:

  1. DO use positive photos in your ads. Stick with happy and healthy people enjoying the outdoors.
  2. Do NOT use “you” in ad copy or copy on images/videos.
  3. Do NOT use ad copy that suggests a person may have a specific medical condition or a negative body image.
  4. Do NOT use images or videos with a lot of skin (even of the back, arm, or leg) so it’s not sexual.
  5. Do NOT use before/after images or images of heavy people struggling to exercise or images of people scratching their skin.

Meta frequently updates its standards for ads and advertisers. Reviewing its guidelines regularly is vital for successful campaign management. It’s also helpful to speak to a support representative to determine what part of your ad or landing page caused the ad disapproval or account suspension. Like Google, your ads may need a standalone landing page if your website mentions restricted drugs, supplements, or treatments.

Conclusion

Complying with the nuances and varying regulations between digital platforms in healthcare advertising is no small task.

Google’s detailed guidelines are clear but are strict, while Meta’s policies present different challenges. Once you review each platform’s restrictions and define the type of drug you are advertising, you will have a much higher success rate with your digital ads.

Prescription drugs, pharmaceuticals, supplements, and CBD require certification, while OTC drugs don’t (but should still reside on a separate page). Experimental medical treatments are often prohibited unless approved by the FDA. If you mention any of these on your website and are not certified with Google or Meta, you may need to create a standalone landing page to advertise other approved products and services online.

The most successful healthcare campaigns leverage expert support for digital marketing. Working with an agency partner adds years of industry experience in overcoming rejections.

Are you ready to take the guesswork out of navigating healthcare ads? Perfect Search Media’s paid advertising experts understand how to resolve issues quickly and proactively design campaigns to limit downtime and reduce restrictions. 

Contact Perfect Search to hit the easy button for paid ads in healthcare. 

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