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Pharmaceutical Companies Put on Notice

Pharmaceutical companies could have sales of their products suspended if they exaggerate the drug's function and effects in advertising, according to a new regulation governing the contents of drug ads.


And all advertisements for drugs that claim to boost sexual performance would be banned from broadcast on TV or radio between 7 AM and 10 PM under the new regulation. The contents of these ads will also be tightly regulated.


The regulation was jointly issued by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the State Food and Drug Administration, China's drug safety watchdog, and would come into effect on May 1.


False and misleading drug advertisements have long plagued China's pharmaceutical industry with media bombarding people with all kinds of "miraculous" drugs.


The State Administration for Industry and Commerce found out that drug ads were the most untrustworthy of all ads last year.


The industrial and commercial authorities stopped nearly 10,000 misleading or false drug ads in 2006, accounting for 11 percent of all the illegal ads found last year.


Pharmaceutical companies were fined 38.8 million yuan (US$5 million) for making these ads.


Drugs like anesthetics, psychotropics, poisonous, and radioactive drugs are strictly barred from being advertised, the regulation said.


Ads that convey "implicit messages" that mislead the public by implying particular drugs can produce certain effects, like boosting energy, height, intelligence or spirit, would also be banned.


And drug ads through promotions offering free samples, free treatments or coupons are also outlawed.


Companies found violating the regulation by tampering with ad contents already approved will be banned from advertising for a year.


Those companies found arbitrarily "amplifying" drug effects to mislead consumers will have their products pulled from sale until such time they have "dispelled the negative influence."


Pharmaceutical and advertising companies will face fines up to a 30,000 yuan (US$3,881) and possible criminal charges if they violate the regulation.


The regulation came after a series of measures adopted by media and drugs supervision authorities to curb the rampant trend of false or misleading drug ads.


The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television last July barred radio and TV from broadcasting shopping guide programs about drugs, medical instruments, breast augmentation products, weight reduction and height enhancement.


(China Daily March 24, 2007)

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