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Medicines advertising in pharmaceutical industries

In a market that is increasingly competitive, most of the entrepreneurs or companies are finding mechanisms which lead to an effective value in promoting their products and thus helps increasing sales. That’s how advertising plays an important role and become one of the favourite marketing strategies because it’s one of the best way to communicate to customers and could give a very satisfying marketing result.

The purpose of advertising can usually be seen when companies want to introduce their new brand or products into the market and create a need for their products. The other reason of advertising is to let customers get to know their existing products and persuade them to buy, especially those consumers who are currently using other brand of the same products.

Despite advertising is usually be treated as one of the marketing strategies implemented by companies, it is important for customers get to know different type of products that are available in the market. Advertising tend to give opportunities to consumers to make comparison in order to find the products that have potential benefits to individuals with optimal satisfaction and also valuable for their money.

Have you come across any medicine advertisements which contain the statements to imply its effectiveness and superior quality? Or have you ever attracted by any super descriptions of a specific product, as one of the best in preventing or treating any kind of human diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, diabetes and etc?


“Take this & get rid of your CANCER DISEASE…”

“100% GUARANTEE for sure, SLIMMING without dieting”

These are just some of the statements that might pop up in an illegal medicine advertisement. Use of certain superlative phrases or words in advertisement may greatly enhance the power and influence of advertising. The question is, are consumers capable of evaluating the reliability of the source of information provided in the advertisement and distinguishing the facts from deceptions published in those irresponsible articles. Without proper guidances dan regulations, this could be the time most consumers tend to buy and consume more and more without knowing the risks.

Advertising and promotional of medicines is acceptable provided it is in line with legislation and guidelines provided by the competent authority because it is crucial to ensure that public health and safety of consumers is not compromised. Advertisements to the general public should help consumers to make rational decisions on the use of medicines without confusing, misleading and deceptive claims.

Currently, in Malaysia, medicines advertising is regulated under the Medicines (Advertisement and Sale) Act (MASA) 1956. According to MASA, advertisement includes any notice, circular, report, commentary, pamphlet, label, wrapper or other document, and any announcement made orally or by any means of producing or transmitting light or sound. Medicine Advertisements Board (MAB) based in Pharmaceutical Services Division, Minisrty of Health (MOH) plays an important role to issue approval for an advertisement, cancel or withdraw the approval granted and review or revise its policies and guidelines as necessary. Only promotion of non-prescription substances which lead to the use as medicines, appliances or remedies is allowed upon MAB’s approval.

With reference to Chart 1, we can see that number of applications for approval of medicine advertisements has significantly increased from year 2012.

Source: Medicine Advertisement Branch, Pharmaceutical Services Division, MOH

The progressive growth of pharmaceutical industry in Malaysia has been seeing over the years. They are responsible for development and production of medicinal products. Marketing has also become one of the responsibilities for pharmaceutical companies to disseminate products information and materials which are truthful, accurate and evidence based besides promoting the sales of medicial products.

Today, based on public complaints and monitoring done by Pharmacy Enforcement Officers, there are still advertisements relating to medicinal products that found to be over claims, misleading and tend to create unrealistic expectations to the consumers. The most common infringement of MASA is publication of advertisements with medical claims without obtaining MAB’s approval and also advertising of prevention, diagnosis or treatment of the diseases and condition of human beings which is prohibited as specified in the Schedule the MASA as follows:-

  1. Diseases or defects of the kidney
  2. Diseases or defects of the heart
  3. Diabetes
  4. Epilepsy or fits
  5. Paralysis
  6. Tuberculosis
  7. Asthma
  8. Leprosy
  9. Cancer
  10. Deafness
  11. Drug addiction
  12. Hernia or rupture
  13. Diseases of the eye
  14. Hypertension
  15. Mental
  16. Infertility
  17. Frigidity
  18. Impairment of the sexual function or impotency
  19. Venereal disease
  20. Nervous debility, or other complaint or infirmity, arising from or relating to sexual intercourse

Pharmacy Enforcement Officers are responsible to ensure that there is ethical promotion of medicinal products so that public health and safety is not compromised. Chart 2 shows statistics of legal actions taken by Pharmacy Enforcement Branch from year 2012 to 2014.

Source: Medicine Advertisement Branch, Pharmaceutical Services Division, MOH

Advertisement is not limited to any specific media. Today, internet is used widely to provide information to consumers even in the distant market. Due to advancements in technology, online advertising or so called internet advertising has globally become one of the favourite model of advertising with the rise of digital electronics such as laptops, mobile phones and etc. Online advertising exists in formats such as pop-up advertising, display advertising, video advertising, mobile internet advertising, advertising on social networks and etc. However, website advertisers should ensure that materials posted on the internet do not contravene the regulations.

From the conventional model of one-way communication, technology advances and the growth of social networks in today’s world such as facebook, twitters, blogging and etc. has made us to become one that is highly interactive even in the aspect of information sharing. Social media is a powerful online tool to promote mecidinal products and services to the public. Medicines advertising in social media has become one of the most challenging issue faced by Pharmacy Enforcement and hence Pharmacy Enforcement always in collaboration with other government agencies, especially Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to regulate the internet advertising and blocking websites that contravene the law when necessary.

According to www.alexa.com, facebook has become the one fo the popular social network websites in Malaysia.

10 Most Popular Sites on Malaysia Web
Google.com.my Blogspot.com
Google.com Life.com.tw
Facebook.com Maybank2u.com.my
Youtube.com Wikipedia.org
Yahoo.com Gigacircle.com

Source: “Top Sites in Malaysia” by www.alexa.com


With the co-operation of all the Pharmacy Enforcement Branches in Malaysia, Protection and Consumer Awareness Unit from Pharmaceutical Service Division has taken an initiative to create a facebook page – “Pilih Ubat Berdaftar”. Besides disseminating information and increasing the consumers awareness regarding the usage of registered products in Malaysia, the main objective of creating the social network were to create a platform of communications between public and Pharmacy Enforcement for information sharing.

As mentioned earlier, advertisers are responsible to ensure that the information published in advertisements in any media is factually accurate, proper, latest and not misleading. It is important to get MAB’s approval before publication of any advertisement related to medicinal products and services so that it doesn’t violate the law and regulations that have been enforced, especially for pharmaceutical industries who always being involved in the marketing and promotion of medicinal products to the public.

For any complaints or further queries relating to medicines advertising, can kindly contact Pharmaceutical Services Division at 03-7841 3200 or visit our website http://www.pharmacy.gov.my for more information.

Last Reviewed : 01 June 2015
Writer/Translator : Yap Fei Ting
Accreditor : Umikalsom bt. Ibrahim