Direct to Consumer Advertisement: Current Scenario in India

CS Gautam, Divya Goel, Amita Utreja, GL Singal

Abstracts: As per the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act 1954,1 which was laid down in April 1954, section 4 clearly mentions regarding prohibition of advertisements relating to drugs and states that no person shall take part in any such advertisement which is false, misleading or gives a false impression about the true character of the drug. On the contrary, media is projecting certain drugs contravening the laid down rules and regulations. In some advertisements, miserable condition of the patient is shown before taking the advertised drug, following with the second segment where it is depicted how healthy, fresh, and wonderful the person is after consuming the drug advertised. Such type of advertisements induces self-medication, especially these days where every one tends to be busy. Instead of going to a prescriber, one would gulp down the drugs from OTC and will go on a self medication spree, which many times can prove dangerous. Despite these facts, the law making and enforcement agencies are yet to break up their silence to address these issues. Thanks to the boom in the communication industry, we often get advertisement about certain remedial agents e.g. antacids, antipyretics, cough & cold remedies, cemergency contraceptive pills etc. It is sometimes even difficult to label certain agents as drugs e.g. Chyavanprash etc.
A flavored sodium bicarbonate powder is advertised as ultimate answer to hyperacidity. However, it is never shown that a hypertensive patient may consume it on some provocation and can load himself with extra sodium.2 The habit is imitative and repetition can create havoc. The cough and cold remedies containing opioids are projected as an ultimate remedy for cough, but they are being used as the cheapest version of drugs for addiction3 because of their easy availability and affordability. One can get the desired kick by consuming a bottle of codeine containing cough syrups which are available openly as OTC drugs at affordable prices. The story is not different in any part of India. One can find piles of empty cough syrup bottles near hostels and even in the bushes adjoining the playgrounds. Various cold remedies should also not be advertised because many of such preparations have phenyl propanolamine which can lead to stroke in young women and such drugs can even lead to serious cardiac ailments in patients with preexisting coronary artery disease. Also, many cough remedies may cause problems if taken with other drugs. 


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