ASCI welcomes health ministry's move to update healthcare ad regulations

The new rules impose stiff penalties on violators of the ad code.

MUMBAI: Quacks, fake doctors and illegal mobile dispensaries had better watch out. The Indian ministry of health & family welfare (MHFW) is taking steps to take you out of business.

Under the draft Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (DMR) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, it is seeking to levy fines of Rs 5 lakh and  imprisonment of two years on violators for the first offence, going up to as much as five years in gaol and a fine of Rs 50 lakh for subsequent violations. The various disorders and illnesses have also been clearly defined, while what constitutes an ad in modern times has also been spelt out. The MHFW is seeking the public’s feedback on the DMR Amendment Bill 2020.

The effort by the ministry to update the older act has met with the approval of the advertising industry’s watchman the Advertising Standards Council of India (Asci). Its secretary Shweta Purandare got into a tele-conversation with and said that the amendment will help it police the healthcare sector better.  "The proposed DMR bill 2020 is an important development and would lend strong support to ASCI's efforts of suo motu monitoring of misleading advertisements in the healthcare sector,” she said. “Consequences of advertisements in violation of DMR regulations are serious and this would result in better compliance from advertisers as well as media concerned, be it an advertisement of allopathic products or Ayush products.”

The draft bill has listed the diseases and conditions which will come under its  umbrella. These include: AIDS, blindness, blood poisoning, bronchial asthma, cancer benign tumour, cataract, change in colour of hair and growth of new hair, change of foetal sex by drugs, congenital malformations, deafness, diabetes, diseases and disorders of the uterus, obesity, fairness of the skin, form and structure of the breast, genetic disorders, improvement in size and shape of the sexual organ and in duration of sexual performance, improvement in height of children or adults, mental retardation, sub normalities, and growth.

Purandare further stated, “Apart from print and TV, it will be interesting to see the impact of advertisements on social media as well as on the advertisers' websites. We would expect this effect to trickle to advertisements by Ayush doctors and clinics propagating ‘guaranteed cure’ as the Central Council of Indian Medicine has taken cognizance of DMR violations in the past and had issued an advisory to state councils for their action."

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