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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19783

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Alexander J
Health ministry asks state drug controllers to closely monitor misleading ads on vitamins, creams
Pharmabiz 2012 Jan 18

Full text:

The union health ministry has asked the state drug control authorities to strictly monitor the exaggerated product advertisements making tall claims regarding efficacy of certain anti-ageing creams, dietary supplements and vitamins.

The direction comes in the wake of complaints lodged with the ministry regarding the ‘significant’ rise in the number of such advertisements about fairness creams, weight loss programmes and vitamins, sources said without specifying any particular advertisement or case.

The state drug control departments were instructed to keep a close tab on such advertisements and file regular reports to the Centre so that further action could be chalked out. “The monitoring will be a continuous activity and based on the inputs, option of further amending the rules would be taken,” sources in the ministry said.

“The regulatory control over manufacture of cosmetics is exercised by the state governments under the provisions of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945. The Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945 were amended in 2009 by inserting rule 148-B which provides prohibition against false and misleading claims for cosmetics. Complaints about tall or unsubstantiated claims are examined by the concerned state authorities under whose jurisdiction the manufacturer is located,” sources said.

The Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC), held in November last year, also had discussed the issue in detail and the drug controllers from the states were alerted on taking stern action on misleading advertisements originating from the states.

As regards the advertisement of food items, Section 24 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 provides for restriction on advertisement of any food which misleads or contravenes the provisions of the Act or the rules and regulations made thereunder. Under Section 53 of the said Act, there is a provision for penalty for misleading advertisement, which makes it liable to a fine which may extend to Rs.10 lakh.


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Cases of wilful misrepresentation are a rarity in medical advertising. For every advertisement in which nonexistent doctors are called on to testify or deliberately irrelevant references are bunched up in [fine print], you will find a hundred or more whose greatest offenses are unquestioning enthusiasm and the skill to communicate it.

The best defence the physician can muster against this kind of advertising is a healthy skepticism and a willingness, not always apparent in the past, to do his homework. He must cultivate a flair for spotting the logical loophole, the invalid clinical trial, the unreliable or meaningless testimonial, the unneeded improvement and the unlikely claim. Above all, he must develop greater resistance to the lure of the fashionable and the new.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963