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A new policy on advertising for speculative and experimental medical treatments

September 6, 2019

Digital advertising helps fuel an open internet for people all over the world -- allowing billions of people to ask questions, find answers, and discover new ideas. We know the digital ads ecosystem can only flourish if it’s a place that is safe and trustworthy for users. That’s why we have robust Google Ads Policies outlining what kind of advertising is, and is not, allowed on our platform.

We regularly review and revise our advertising policies. Today, we’re announcing a new Healthcare and medicines policy to prohibit advertising for unproven or experimental medical techniques such as most stem cell therapy, cellular (non-stem) therapy, and gene therapy. This new policy will prohibit ads selling treatments that have no established biomedical or scientific basis. The new policy also includes treatments that are rooted in basic scientific findings and preliminary clinical experience, but currently have insufficient formal clinical testing to justify widespread clinical use.

We know that important medical discoveries often start as unproven ideas -- and we believe that monitored, regulated clinical trials are the most reliable way to test and prove important medical advances. At the same time, we have seen a rise in bad actors attempting to take advantage of individuals by offering untested, deceptive treatments. Often times, these treatments can lead to dangerous health outcomes and we feel they have no place on our platforms.

Experts in this field support such restrictions. The International Society for Stem Cell Research President Deepak Srivastava says, “Google’s new policy banning advertising for speculative medicines is a much-needed and welcome step to curb the marketing of unscrupulous medical products such as unproven stem cell therapies. While stem cells have great potential to help us understand and treat a wide range of diseases, most stem cell interventions remain experimental and should only be offered to patients through well-regulated clinical trials. The premature marketing and commercialization of unproven stem cell products threatens public health, their confidence in biomedical research, and undermines the development of legitimate new therapies.”

We know that there are good actors in this space as well, doing important research that may lead to major advances in medicine. We’ll continue to allow advertising for research happening in this space for clinical trials and the ability for clinicians to promote their research findings to the public.

As new findings come to light and regulatory bodies oversee developments in this field, we will continue to evaluate our policies and make updates as needed.

Posted by Adrienne Biddings, Policy Adviser

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