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Medicines Advertisement: Reality vs Fantasy

Reality vs Fantasy

When it comes to medicinal advertisement in media be it print or electronic, the common products that would cross our mind are slimming pill, cancer medication, whitening agent, acne medication and others. On top of that, there is quite a number on food and health beverages advertisements with so many claims and testimonials of before and after result to garner public’s interest on buying the products.

From the sellers’ perspectives, all kinds of effort must be used to ensure that their products are the best. There are various techniques being used to diffentiate the visual of before and after; such as lighting technique, face mimic, superimposed, editing and others. There are also some of the advertisements showcasing the intimacy between married couple that is deemed improper and not suitable with our rich and polite Malaysia culture.

There are also advertisements that are using religion as a platform to promote their products by including verses from Al-Quran as well as a hadith that are randomly chosen for promotion purposes. It can’t be denied that every ingredient has its own medicinal properties but our health is at stake when all the components are combined into one product when there is no specific scientific test done to ensure the effectiveness of the product and the effect that it will have on our health. The only evidences that we have are testimonials given by the consumers that might be exaggerated.

MAL dan KKLIU number

When a product is classified as pharmaceutical product, a registration is required under Drug Control Authority (DCA), Ministry of Health (MOH), Malaysia and it has gone through thorough evaluation by DCA, MOH to ensure its safety and quality to be used. Once it gets registered, the product will be given a registration number which begins with MAL number followed with 8 digit and ended with a particular code (example: MAL12345678T). In term of advertising the product, the advertisement needs to get approval from Medicines Advertisement Board (MAB), Ministry of Health (MOH). It is to ensure that all facts and claims stated in their advertisement are validated and supported with documentation.

For instance, if the advertisers use the statement ‘TOP RANK IN MALAYSIA’ and ‘#1, they are required to prove it to the MAB to validate their statement If the advertisement does not have MAB approval, the claims made in the advertisement can be argued and questioned. It is crucial for the public to ensure that the advertisements have a KKLIU number (example: KKLIU 1234/2014) as a confirmation that these products are registered with DCA, MOH.


Believing on hear-says of positive result of unregistered performance enhancer products contributes to the sprouting of illegal medications nowadays. For the sellers, performance enhancer products or also knows as ‘ubat kuat’ are well focused towards men and the demands are high. Those who are desperate and shy to go through proper check-up, usually find these kind of advertisements as the easy way to get treated (self-medication) without seeking medical advise from doctors.

According to the MOH statistic, in 2013 there are about 1125 items that had been detected with adulterant sex stimulant; Sildenafil and its analogues. Due to high demand among the consumers, there are irresponsible people that mixed sex stimulants product with coffee beverages and as well as candy. Hence, please be cautious when consuming certain products on increasing sexual performance.


Health can’t be bought

They are so many people who seek for the easiest ways and shortcuts on losing weight hence consuming weight loss products (pill/liquid/cream based) seem like the ideal way to go rather than shedding the excessive weight through physical exercise. Consumers should not blindly trust the before and after visuals that are advertised because the process of losing weight will take time depending on each individual’s metabolism.

For slimming product taken orally, it is concerning because in 2013; Pharmacy Enforcement Division (MOH) has found about 203 items that are adulterated with banned slimming agent and consuming this can jeopardize our health. Follow proper steps that are required to lose weight through balanced diet and exercise. Even though it can be taxing and meticulous but it is better than opting towards taking illegal medications and jeopardizing our body.


Real cases

  1. A complainant having dizziness and pain after taking a coffee claimed to increase sexual performance. The coffee is sold RM70 per box bought via online.
  2. A complainant developed gum bleeding, dizziness, bruises and ‘thrombocytopenia’ after taking an unregistered Chinese medicine bought from mobile agent. The result from lab test indicated that the medication is adulterated with steroid.
  3. A complainant bought a health product that was claimed to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol level. He was having bloody stool. After 3 hours consumed the product, he was having over sweating and his heart beats rapidly.

Be smart

‘Nina, do try this product…. it was advertised in Facebook and approved by KKM…it has JAKIM’s certificate…..it can cure everything, just have a look at this testimonial! This lady becomes slimmer, whiter and a lot of celebrities use this product…”

If one of us is being approached with this kind of promotion, what are our pre-cautionary steps? There might be people who get influenced with these types of statement and would buy the product in the blink of an eye. Be cautious and do counter check with regulatory body. If the product claimed to be registered with MOH, please double check through portal www.pharmacy.gov.my to ensure the registration status of the said product. If the product is already approved, a detail (registration number, manufacturer etc) of the product will be appeared. Otherwise, if it is unregistered, no record will be found and it is grave concern that it can be hazardous to health.

Other than looking at the registration number, public can also check whether the advertisement has a KKLIU number. Should the public require further explanation, feel free to contact Medicines Advertisement Board at 03-78413200.

On the other hand, if a product is classified as food, the advertiser should not use such statement like ‘APPROVED BY KKM’ because MOH did not give any approval for food product but only classified products as food. Products classified as food should not state medicinal claims.

Same goes with cosmetic advertisement. Cosmetic ads should not use medicinal claim because the use of cosmetic is only for external used such as fragrance purpose, cleansing and other cosmetic claim stipulated under Cosmetic Advertising Code www.bpfk.gov.my)

It can’t be denied that with the high utilization of current mobile applications, ads can be advertised vastly especially with the use of social media such as facebook, whatsapp, twitter and others. That is one of the challenges for MOH and that is why public must be well informed to avoid them from getting influenced and tricked by illegal medication advertisements. The equation is simple; there will be no supply if there is no demand. Public must be smart to choose proper medicines especially those taken orally or on skin application. Medicines ad are different from other ads stuff; detergent, handbag and other. Any product that we take will have an effect on our body. Hence, such pre-cautionary measures must be followed prior buying or taking any products.

Again, do get proper advice from medical officers or pharmacist prior using any product. Do not buy medicine from flea market, kiosk or websites as well as social media. Make sure the pharmaceutical product is registered bearing with MAL registration number accompanied with hologram Meditag and the advertisement is approved by MAB. For more enquiries please contact Pharmaceutical Services Division, MOH at 03-78413200 or email to pharmacy1@moh.gov.my.


  1. Medicines (Advertisement and Sales) Act 1956 (Revised 1983)
Last Reviewed : 09 September 2014
Writer/Translator : Normawati bt. Mohammed Noor
Accreditor : Muhammad Lukmani bin Ibrahim