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New Regulation to Stop Misleading Drug Ads

Pharmaceutical companies will be barred from advertising prescription drugs, providing consumer hotlines, or offering free treatment and samples in the media when a new regulation comes into effect on May 1.

The State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the State Food and Drug Administration, China's drug safety watchdog, issued the new regulation governing the contents of drug ads on Thursday.

The authorities have revised the 1,995 regulation to place more emphasis on stopping drug companies from issuing ads with misleading information. Under the new regulation, companies are barred from producing ads with "implicit messages" that mislead the public by falsely implying particular drugs can produce unlikely results, like boosting height, intelligence or energy levels.

False and misleading advertisements are one of the biggest problems plaguing China's drug industry. The industrial and commercial authorities stopped 9,748 misleading or false ads in 2006 and fined drug companies 38.8 million yuan for producing illegal ads. About 11 percent of all the illegal ads in China promote drugs.

The new regulation will tighten the rules governing prescription drug advertisements. Media outlets will not be allowed to air any prescription drug ads aimed at the general public. Promotional campaigns for prescription drugs that target the general public will also be outlawed. All prescription drug ads will be required to include a statement saying they have been specifically produced for medical and pharmaceutical professionals.

All advertisements for drugs that claim to boost sexual performance will not be allowed to be broadcast on TV or radio between 7:00 AM and 10:00 PM under the new regulation. The contents of these ads will also be tightly regulated.

Any ads promoting anesthetic drugs, psychotropic drugs, poisonous drugs, radioactive drugs or drugs specifically designed for army use will also be illegal.

Pharmaceutical and advertising companies will face up to 30,000 yuan fine and possible criminal charges if they violate the regulation.

( March 17, 2007)

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