GOLDHAWK SPOTTED his favourite ‘celebrity pharmacist’, Oonagh O’Hagan, giving very informed tips in the Indo to hapless readers for the best way to deal with irritable bowel syndrome.
Two of the tips from the media-friendly boss of the well-known Meagher’s Pharmacy chain referred to taking the supplement Symprove. Certainly, this must be a top-notch recommendation given O’Hagan’s familiarity with the supplement. She happens to own Symprove Ireland Ltd, the company that distributes the product across Ireland.
When dishing out her valuable health advice on assorted topics, the loaded O’Hagan is not shy of promoting Symprove, which retails at a mere €199 for a 12-week course.
It is heavily pushed across the website for Meagher’s Pharmacy, where O’Hagan is the sole owner through parent company Batavone Holdings Ltd, which had accumulated profits of a very healthy €6.1m in August 2021.
Some media outlets do charge Oonagh O’Hagan for plugging her own product. In a glowing, paid-for puff piece on the Business Post’s website, O’Hagan muses about why someone would choose one of her pharmacies “over a competitor’s”. Oonagh’s conclusion centred on the “trusted relationships” staff have with customers and “the knowledge they have and the advice they share in a genuinely caring and empathetic manner”.
Coincidentally, this advice sometimes leads to a recommendation for Symprove, if the health blogs on Meagher’s website are anything to go by.
One blog by supervising pharmacist Cliona Loughnane, for example, describes the product as her “top recommended supplement of all time” no less.
She writes glowingly about customers, with a wide range of conditions, who give Meagher’s “incredible feedback” on how Symprove has “significantly improved their quality of life”.
Meagher’s is also a sponsor of Image magazine’s ‘Wellness Project’. In a sponsored post in April on the subject of female health, O’Hagan stated: “We always recommend a product called Symprove because it’s clinically proven and is backed by science to get your microbiome working effectively within 12 weeks.”
While the brand itself is prohibited from making specific health claims due to Symprove’s categorisation as a food supplement, Oonagh has no doubt benefited from employees and popular social media influencers such as James Kavanagh and Niamh Cullen.
Goldhawk’s gut instinct is that the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland won’t be getting involved here as the article in question would not be considered advertising but rather editorial, nodded through by the Indo as what appeared to be an impartial health feature written by the MD of a leading pharmacy group.