Centre Urges States to Take Legal Action Against Ayurvedic, Unani Drugmakers for Misleading Ads
In an attempt to curb misinformation about Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Unani (ASU) drugs, the AYUSH Ministry has issued an advisory to state licensing authorities for ASU drugs urging them to take legal action against misleading advertising. The move comes after the ministry experienced a flood of complaints about false advertising by such manufacturers.
Issued this month, the advisory states that ASU drug makers who make misleading claims could attract penalties under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. These penalties could include the suspension or cancellation of manufacturing licenses or even imprisonment.
According to The Print, the ministry registered more than 570 complaints of false and ambiguous claims made by ASU-drug manufacturers between March and December 2020 — around twice the number of such complaints it received in the year leading up to March 2020.
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Officials acknowledged that the spike in misinformation was triggered by the global pandemic. “In 2020, the focus on AYUSH medicines had gone up due to Covid19. Hence, the promotion of traditional medicines also went up along with an increase in false, misleading ads,” an official from the AYUSH Ministry told The Print anonymously.
In addition to damaging the reputation and perception of AYUSH disciplines, unscientific claims like the (now-retracted) one by Patanjali that called its product Coronil the “first evidence-based Ayurvedic medicine for coronavirus,” are also dangerous to public health. If, influenced by false advertising, individuals begin flouting social distancing and masking norms after taking certain Ayurvedic herbs that can supposedly prevent Covid19, they would be increasing the risk to themselves and others.
“When disinformation is repeated and amplified … the grave danger is that information which is based on truth ends up having only marginal impact,” Guy Berger, UNESCO Director for Policies and Strategies, had said in April.