ET Bureau Jan 14, 2020, 08.48 AM IST

New Delhi: Pharmaceutical companies or anybody involved in exaggerating how well their drugs work will face exemplary penalty and imprisonment, according to the proposed amendments to the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

As per the proposals, offence involving deceptive advertisement would invite a fine of Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment that could be up to two years in case of a first conviction, people in know said. In case of a subsequent conviction, the fine could go up to Rs 50 lakh and the jail term to five years. The proposed amendments would cover digital advertising, notice, circular, label, wrapper, invoice, banner and poster, among others.

At present, penalties for false claims include imprisonment up to six months, fine, or both in the case of the first conviction. In case of a subsequent conviction, imprisonment could be extended to one year, or fine, or both. To check deceptive advertising practices by pharmaceutical companies that put public health at risk, the health ministry had set up a committee to recommend amendments to existing laws to initiate criminal procedures, including jail term for top managers, and impose huge financial penalties against such firms and individuals. “There is a proposal for enhanced penalties for those who contravene with the provisions of the Act,” said NK Ahooja, the state drug controller in Haryana. Ahooja is one of the members of the expert committee.

The experts have also proposed to amend the definition of advertisement in line with the Consumer Protection Act. While the existing Act prohibits misleading health claims in the print media, it has no provision to tackle advertisements that may appear on the Internet.

According to the proposed amendment, “advertisement would mean any audio or visual publicity, representation, endorsement, pronouncement made by means of light, sound, smoke, gas, print, electronic media, Internet or website and includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper, invoice, banner, poster or any such other documents”, same a person cited earlier. The amendment also includes a clause to protect actions taken in good faith from legal proceedings.