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Misleading diabetes and high blood pressure advertisement

Healthcare product advertisement with exaggerated claims seems to have become a practice and followed by advertisers in Malaysia. We questioned when we saw those advertisement especially in social media whether it is true or not. Typically, most of this healthcare product advertisements focused on chronic illnesses which are not easily treated such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

What is diabetes and high blood pressure?

Diabetes which is also known as diabetes mellitus is a metabolic condition when the amount of glucose or sugar in the blood is higher than the normal level. On the other hand, high blood pressure or hypertension is a condition when the pressure in the blood vessels increases.

According to Annual Report Non-Communicable Disease in 2011 published by Non-Communicable Disease Section, Ministry of Health showed that 15.2 percent of adults have diabetes, while 32.7 percent of adults suffer from high blood pressure. Causes of the disease are generally unhealthy lifestyle, poor diet, and not the least hereditary and genetics, also play a significant part in ones susceptibility to diabetes.

Can diabetes or hypertension be cured?

Diabetes cannot be cured completely. Patients need to control their diet, exercise regularly and take their medication on a regular basis to get the blood sugar levels under control. Uncontrolled blood sugar level may cause severe complications such as eye problems, slow healing of wounds or tissue death (gangrene) which will lead to numbness or nerve damage and ultimately amputation.

On the other hand, high blood pressure may be managed through lifestyle changes and taking medications that have been prescribed by a doctor. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, one can help to lower blood pressure, improve the effectiveness of the medications taken and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke or kidney disease.

Apart from the modern medicines given by doctors to treat patients with diabetes and hypertension, there are also traditional medicines that are believed help to control these diseases which were found through some studies and researches. For example, the plant “Misai Kucing” is used traditionally to control high blood pressure while “Peria Katak” is believed to help patients suffering from diabetes.

Why are patients with diabetes and hypertension targeted by these advertisers?

Healthcare product manufacturer are targeting patients suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure to sell their products. These product manufacturers often tend to advertise their products with medical claims which are not supported by scientific researches or studies but based on dubious testimonies. Advertisers take advantage of patients who wants cure for the illnesses they suffer from. Fraudulent claims on healthcare advertisements may entice consumers to purchase costly, ineffective, and even more importantly, makes the disease worse and more harmful to the patients.

Testimonial is a common method that the manufacturers use to advertise their products. Testimonials are powerful marketing strategies because it is from the users of the product itself, proving the effectiveness of the product and recommending the product to the public. However, to what extent is the testimony true? Does it really come from users of the product itself? Or it is just a false testimony?

Have it ever crossed our mind that if the products can really cure the disease as they claimed, why not it is supplied in the hospitals or clinics? Modern medicines which are prescribed by doctors went through a variety of tests to ensure its safety and efficacy before it can be given to patients. The advertisers obviously just want to take advantage of desperate patients.

How do I know whether the advertisement shown is legal and has been approved by the authorities?

The best way is to make sure that the advertisements have KKLIU numbers. KKLIU number is the approval serial number granted by the Medicine Advertisement Board, a body established under the Ministry of Health to assess and ensure that the content of the advertisement is true, accurate and reliable. Approval from the Medicine Advertisement Board will help the public to make rational decisions on the purchase of drugs, while avoiding advertisers who takes advantage of consumers.

The MAB also serves to ensure that advertisers advertise their products responsibly, protect the public by promoting the correct and safe use of drugs and ensure that advertisers advertise the benefits, uses and effects of drug use honestly.

Tips to identify the legal advertisement

Advertisers tend to only promote the good things about their products. Therefore, as a smart consumer, we must not be deceived by the tricks of advertising or product sellers who are just into making profit without taking into account the adverse effects that may occur to us.

  • Avoid being too trusting with advertisement that have extreme claims for example ‘All diseases can be cured’.
  • Do your homework about the advertised product that you want to purchase. Make sure that the information you obtained is from reliable sources, for example from a pharmacist or doctor.
  • Ensure that the advertised product is registered with the Ministry of Health (MOH). The public can check the registration status of a product on the BPFK website(www.bpfk.gov.my) or the Pharmaceutical Services Division (PSD) website (www.pharmacy.gov.my).
  • Ensure that the advertisement has a KKLIU number. Advertisements which have been approved by the MAB have been evaluated, and the medical claims contained in it have been ascertained as authentic, true and not fabricated only to popularize the product.
  • KKLIU number shall be displayed on the advertisement in all media. The public can also check the validity of the KKLIU numbers on the BPF website, ww.pharmacy.gov.my.
  • Should you find any suspicious advertisement; complaints or inquiries can be made to the Enforcement Division at 03-78413200 or its branch in their respective state.
Last Reviewed : 05 June 2015
Writer/Translator : Nur Ilyana bt. Mohamad
Accreditor : Muhammad Lukmani bin Ibrahim