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Alternative medicine ads come under ASCI-Ayush lens

March 15, 2017 11:48 IST

ASCI and Ayush ministry get down to monitoring print and television ads of ayurvedic, unani, homeopathic and yoga and naturopathy practitioners.

The Advertising Standards Council of India, the country’s apex ad regulator, has got a shot in the arm in its fight against misleading healthcare ads.

The Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM), a statutory body under the Union ministry of Ayush, has issued an advisory to all state boards and councils to take action against those making false and misleading healthcare claims.

The move comes as ASCI and the Ayush ministry get down to monitoring print and television ads of ayurvedic, unani, homeopathic and yoga and naturopathic practitioners as part of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed this January.

The MoU will see ASCI act as an executive arm of the Ayush ministry, helping the latter weed out misleading ads. Once ASCI identifies a false ad, it will warn the advertiser to either remove the ad or modify it.

In case of non-compliance, ASCI will write to the Ayush ministry or the state licensing authority, which will then take appropriate action.

These steps are significant, say experts, since consumers in the past few years have gravitated towards herbal and ayurvedic products and medicines. And proponents of these products such as Ramdev, co-founder of Patanjali Ayurved, are getting increasingly aggressive.

Patanjali has been pulled up by ASCI earlier for misleading ads, which is currently being challenged in court. ASCI officials have declined to comment, saying the matter is sub-judice.

The CCIM advisory has asked state boards and councils to report ads that violate the Indian medicine regulations of 1982. This is expected to add one more layer to the monitoring already initiated by ASCI.

“With state councils asked to report violations, it will help in curbing misleading claims made by practitioners of the Indian system of medicine,” Shweta Purandare, secretary general, ASCI, said.

The ad regulator has repeatedly highlighted the menace posed by indigenous doctors who make arbitrary claims of health and medical benefits with no scientific evidence backing them.

Of the complaints that ASCI receives regularly, those in education, healthcare and food and beverages are among the top three.

While ASCI has an MoU with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for clamping down on errant food ads, it is also working closely, say sources, to stitch up an arrangement to monitor education ads.

ASCI, in its drive to increase awareness of the issue of quacks and false doctors, has asked consumers to complain against them. Those who are uncertain of the credentials of a doctor can reach out to ASCI who will then step in and direct the matter to the relevant authorities.

Viveat Susan Pinto