Ban Medical Ads to Protect Public Health

Chinese lawmakers and political advisors in their annual full sessions here have called for a comprehensive ban on all medical advertisements, accusing most of such ads of "cheating and misleading" consumers and "endangering public health."

"Nowadays medical advertisements about hospitals and medicines are flooding the Chinese media, and some of them are full of appalling lies," said Kang Jiaoyang, a member of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top advisory body.

In some medical ads now published or broadcast on the Chinese media, "miraculous cures" have been found to diseases globally recognized as incurable, such as cancer, AIDS and hereditary sterility, said Wu Liying, a deputy to the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), the Chinese legislature, from Northeast China's Liaoning Province.

"Falling for these lies, many patients have suffered from delayed treatment and even lost their lives," Wu, an official with a district health department in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning, added.

According to Feng Shiliang, a CPPCC National Committee member from Liaoning, each year around 2.5 million people in China take the "wrong medicines" due to the misleading of medical ads.

Despite a strict ban on fake or misleading information in commercial ads imposed by the existing regulations, cheating and exaggeration have been rampant in China's medical ads due to behind-the-scene collaboration between hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and media organizations, said Huang Taikang, another NPC deputy.

"The hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are paying big money for publication and broadcast of cheating ads, while some immoral media organizations simply turn a blind eye to the fake information for the pursuit of profits," Huang said.

As a result, many hospitals and pharmaceutical companies in the country have "gathered huge wealth overnight" at the cost of the welfare, health and even lives of consumers and patients, accused the lawmaker.

The two advisors, Kang and Feng, both called on the government to ban medical ads in the country "according to international common practice."

"I strongly advocate a comprehensive ban on medical ads, just like the ban on cigarettes ads," said Kang. "As for the public's need for medical information, it can be met through the regular, authoritative release by health and drug administrations."

Medical advertisements have come under fire at the annual NPC and CPPCC sessions for several consecutive years, leading to stricter ads regulations and sporadic ban on fake ads by some local industrial and commercial departments. But a complete ban on such ads is yet to be put on the agenda. 

(Xinhua News Agency March 10, 2006)


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