With High Court backing, FDA to rid media of dubious drug ads

Apr 24, 2013, 06:51 IST | Ravikiran Deshmukh

As High Court vacated a previous stay order, the agency can now initiate action against advertisements of bogus drugs in newspapers and television

Late-night television in India is a wondrous world, with semi-celebs and complete quacks trying to sell you preventive care and miracle cures for myriad problems. Whether it’s a perceived lack of sexual prowess, grey matter, or vegetation on your scalp, at the right price there’s an antidote for everything.

Now, with a Bombay High Court decision to vacate a stay order on the matter, the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can initiate action against advertisements of mock medications in the media. The agency can book advertisers, television channels and newspapers, manufacturers, stockists and distributors who are at fault.

Major setback
The Food and Drug Administration crackdown had received a major setback some time ago when a firm had approached the HC against action taken by the agency. The court had ordered an interim stay, bringing the drive to a halt. “Now that the stay has been vacated, we can commence action against such drugs,” FDA commissioner Mahesh Zagade told this newspaper.

As per the provisions in The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1955, a violation is a cognisable offence, punishable with imprisonment of up to six months. And not just the media house carrying such a commercial - the ad filmmaker and his employees may also face action.

As per the latest data, FDA can act against manufacturers who claim to offer memory-enhancing drugs, low-calorie diets, and tonics and drugs that augment sexual prowess. During campaigns undertaken in the recent past, FDA issued notices in 53 instances where it found contravention of norms in advertising foodstuff, and recovered Rs 3 lakh as fine in 15 cases, says the authority.

In matters related to sex drugs, the authority has handed out warnings to 50 advertisers, distributors and manufacturers. Their stocks worth Rs 12.53 lakh were also confiscated. This information was provided in a written reply to the state council. Meanwhile, the FDA commissioner said contents of the drugs notwithstanding, their advertising campaigns must conform to provisions of the state Act.

Sale of medicines to come under essential services?
The state is mulling a proposal to apply provisions of Essential Services Act on medical shops. A process to include retail and wholesale vending of medicines has been initiated and meetings of high-level officials along with process of appointment of a panel is on, said a statement before state council recently.

Rs 3 Lakhs
the amount recovered in 15 cases of violation of norms in advertising foodstuff

Rs 12.5 Lakhs
worth of stock belonging to 50 advertisers, distributors, manufacturers was seized 

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