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Ayush Ministry under fire over Rule 170 climb down

The Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) Ministry’s apparent U-turn on its stance – specifically for controlling inappropriate advertisements of Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani medicines – has come under criticism from health experts who have now approached the Ministry for urgent intervention and possible reversal of its recommendation.

The Ayurvedic Siddha and Unani Drugs Technical Advisory Board (ASUBTAB) has recommended the omission of Rule 170 which deals with controlling inappropriate advertisements and was previously brought into the Central Government notified amendment of the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945, on December 24, 2018.

The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, encompasses the provisions for prohibition of misleading advertisements and exaggerated claims of drugs and medicinal substances including AYUSH medicines and for the penalty to be imposed on the defaulters.

RTI activist Dr Babu K.V. in his letter to the AYUSH Minister Sarbananda Sonowal stated, “It’s a wrong decision on the part of the ASUDTAB, giving preference to the interests of the pharma industry over the health of the citizens of our country. There is nothing in the public domain to support the claim of the ASUDTAB that Magic Remedies Act and Consumer Protection Act are enough to address the issue of misleading advertisement of drugs, while there is no significant number of prosecutions under Magic Remedies Act and the media are flooded with misleading advertisements. I request ASUDTAB to withdraw the decision.’’

Calling the U-turn a bad idea, Prashant Reddy, author and lawyer specialising in intellectual property law and drug regulation, said we must understand why Rule 170 was brought in in the first place.

“Those reasons haven’t changed yet. What is also a fact is that 170 was never put to work as the constitutionality was contested and remained unimplemented so far,” he added.

Previously considering the emerging situation of misleading advertisements, the Ministry of AYUSH signed an MoU with Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) for two years to undertake monitoring of AYUSH-related advertisements in the print and visual media and bring the cases of contravention of legal provisions to the notice of the State Regulatory Authorities for necessary action.

Similarly, the Department of Consumers Affairs has set up an online system called GAMA (Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements) portal for registering public complaints of misleading advertisements of various commodities including AYUSH medicines and allied products. As a result of monitoring by ASCI, 732 cases of misleading advertisements of AYUSH were reported in 2017-18 and 497 cases in 2018-19. Among them, 456 cases of violation of Drugs & Magic Remedies Act, 1954, in 2017-18 and 203 cases in 2018-19 have been escalated to the State Regulators for taking necessary action in accordance with legal provisions. The Hindu

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