Drugs and Magic Remedies act to cover online, electronic media; have higher penalties
New Delhi: In a stringent view to regulate the menace of misleading advertisements opted tactfully by many companies to enhance the sale of their products, the Health Ministry has recently proposed to amend the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 to incorporate greater penalties. The proposed draft calls for stringent punishments including criminal charges, wherein, a penalty of Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for two years will be levied on drugmakers if they are found exaggerating how well their drugs work, suggests a recent media report in The Economic Times.
The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 is one the regulations controlling the advertising of drugs and therapies in India. It prohibits advertisements of drugs and remedies that claim to have magical properties and makes doing so a cognizable offence. The Act lays a statutory provision, wherein, the penalty carries a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment with or without fine on the first conviction. In case of any subsequent conviction, the term may be up to a year. If the convicted party is a company, all members of the company will be deemed guilty.
While the existing Act prohibits misleading health claims in the print media, however, it has no provision to tackle advertisements that may appear on the Internet. In the wake of the absence of provisions for internet, there has been a rise in advertisements of drugs that claim to be having magical results on a person's health.
Taking cognizance of the probable risk posed at public health due to deceptive pharma ads and to regulate the same, the Ministry had reportedly been contemplating to amend the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 and Magic Remedies (Objectional Advertisements) Act, 1954 and Rules 1955. Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that the apex drug regulator, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CSDCO) had recommended constituting a sub-committee to regulate advertisements for treatment of aliments under Schedule J of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 and aliments under Magic Remedies (Objectional Advertisements) Act, 1954 and Rules 1955.
Schedule J of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 contains a list of diseases and ailments that a drug may not claim to prevent or cure. The list includes cancer, change of foetal sex, the fairness of the skin, maintenance or improvement of the capacity of a human being for sexual pleasure, premature ejaculation, sexual impotence, premature greying of hair, form and structure of the breast, and power to rejuvenate.
As per a recent ET report, the Health Ministry has constituted a committee including State Drug Controller of Haryana, to recommend amendments to the prevailing laws and impose strict penal actions for those advertising their drugs while exaggerating their products.
According to the proposed amendments to the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, offences involving deceptive ads would attract criminal procedures including jail term for top managers, and impose huge financial penalties against such firms and individuals. A fine of Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment that could be up to two years in case of the first conviction will be charged, while in case of a subsequent conviction, the fine could go up to Rs 50 lakh and the jail term to five years.
The proposed amendments would cover digital advertising, notice, circular, label, wrapper, invoice, banner and poster, among others. Moreover, the definition of advertisement in line with the Consumer Protection Act will also be amended. The amendment also includes a clause to protect actions taken in good faith from legal proceedings.
"There is a proposal for enhanced penalties for those who contravene with the provisions of the Act," NK Ahooja, State Drug Controller, Haryana told ET.
According to the proposed amendment, "advertisement would mean any audio or visual publicity, representation, endorsement, pronouncement made by means of light, sound, smoke, gas, print, electronic media, Internet or website and includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper, invoice, banner, poster or any such other documents", sources aware of the development told the daily.