Health shopping today is one of the sure-shot ways of losing not only cash, but also our mind, because quacks have invaded the markets in hordes! They are as huge, unscrupulous and harmful as the creepiest creatures and ghouls crawling out of a Stephen King chiller or a Lord of the Rings movie!
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Several recent advertisements put out by some of the biggest and the smallest drug companies in India for selling their potions, lotions, clinics, tablets and treatment for all sorts of ailments have been banned by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), because they violated the Drugs & Magic Remedies Act. This Act forbids the advertising of products that claim to cure incurable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, AIDS, paralysis, balding, and many more.
The legislation however has not been able to stem the flood of false advertisements, as the following examples will show.
Stay young forever?
Lotus Herbals Ltd, a fairly well-known name, was promoting its product called Lotus Herbals Youth RX with claims that had 10 times more geneplex youth compound (whatever that is), which could successfully reverse ageing! Predictably, it also had a celebrity Shilpa Shetty endorsing the product in an advertisement.
A complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Council of India which urged the company to prove its claims. Lotus, however, did not respond to its queries. The ASCI ruled that it was making claims with no proof of the efficacy of their product and were also guilty of ignoring the new guidelines set down by it regarding the engagement of celebrities for advertising.
Short height to diminishing libido, they cure it all!
Another company called Suraksha Pharma was promoting its Kanthari Plus Capsules, assuring consumers that it would cure heart block, cholesterol, thyroid, diabetes, obesity, failing eye sight, Alzheimers and even kidney function. The faulty English, vague terminology and the reckless claims in its advertisements are all unnerving.
The ASCI banned this advertisement saying that it could lure consumers into taking this medicine without proper medical guidance. According to the Council, the diseases for which they offer cures are serious and fatal and the vague usage could mislead and harm consumers.
Yet another company ACU – AID advertised its treatment for a slipped disc without operation or medicine. It also claimed to have cure/solutions for migraine, height deficiency etc. The ASCI banned this advertisement. Promises of increasing the height of a buyer is against the rules of the Magic Remedies Act!
New Leaf, again, is another enterprise that ensured obese customers that they would lose 4 inches in just 7 days with its treatment, but when asked, could not give any evidence to the ASCI about how it would do this. The ad was banned thereafter.
When Pratiraj Herbal Pharmacy told consumers about its Alpic Hair Oil (made after 20 years of research), it claimed, that it “describes first research for Alopecia in India.” Baldness or Alopecia, incidentally, is not a curable disease. The firm could not convince the ASCI about its product’s efficacy and the ad has since been banned.
A particularly bizarre and hilarious advertisement was put out by a company called Dr. S.K. Jain’s Burlington Clinic Private Ltd and Burlington Hospital. The ASCI received a complaint against this hospital, which advertised Dr Jain as being India’s No. 1 sexologist and the only sexologist who was honoured with Bharat Gaurav & Swasth Bharat Ratna award! Its punchline said, ‘There are 111 questions related to sex and solution is only with Burlington Clinic!’
When asked by the ASCI to validate its claims and how it would do all that it purported to, the Clinic was unable to do so. It went through a lot of rigmarole and handed over unverified material to the ASCI, which promptly banned this ad.
Yes, Patanjali too!
There has been an increasing trend of shopping for products from Patanjali Ayurved Limited either online or from their stores. Even leading retail chains have Patanjali products on their shelves. But the ASCI has found 25 advertisements of this firm on TV, print and product packaging to be misleading with no scientific data to prove their claims.
Patanjali Dant Kanti claimed to be effective against swelling and bleeding of gums, against Pyorrhoea, yellowing teeth etc. But it could not prove this to the ASCI. They are not purely Ayurvedic and have several chemicals in them, which is evident if one scans the product packages closely. A local court in Haridwar slapped a fine of Rs 11 lakh on five product units of Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved for ‘misbranding and misleading ads’.
Another website – Fineyog.com — offers Patanjali products for sale in the US. Some of the products the site sells are Baba Ramdev Medicine for Sex Problems in Men/Sex Booster, Medicines for Sexual Weakness and Sexual Strength, Divya Yauvanamrit Vati for impotence in men, medicine for hearing loss and one that treats infertility in women. All of these violate the ASCI guidelines and the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act.
Being a responsible consumer
Before shopping for your medicines either online or at the chemists’ store, check with your doctor. Do not waste your money and risk your life by falling for glitzy ads making tall claims. No matter how well-known the company, or the face on the ad.
Also check out the ASCI website where you will find more than a thousand advertisements selling risky medicines, potions, doctors, clinics, lotions, pills and powders of dubious quality. You can also lodge a complaint on the site here if you feel that any advertisement is blatantly false or misleading.
These will make you a smarter and certainly a very healthy consumer!