The marketing of ‘magic’, never mind the laws

National

When Kashmira Shah advocates Power Prash on late-night television as the one-stop tonic for increasing one's sexual prowess, or when Alok Nath praises Sandhi Sudha as the cure for joint pain, both advertisements appear to be violating drug regulation laws. Yet when manufacturers are sued or served a notice over the way they market their products, they find a way to get around the laws citing technicalities.

The Drugs and Magic Remedies (objectionable advertisement) Act, 1955, lists 54 diseases for which unscientific remedies are not to be advertised. Male sexual dysfunction, which Power Prash claims to heal, and rheumatism —one of its commonest symptoms is arthritis, which Sandhi Sudha claims to cure —are both in the list.

The manufacturer of Musli Power Xtra, advertised as a "one of a kind, potent and extraordinarily effective natural sex enhancer", was taken to court by the government of Kerala, the state from where it is licensed. The company, Kunnath Pharmaceuticals, argued it is not violating the law because it only prohibits advertisement of a cure whereas the product only says it will improve symptoms.

"The government has asked the company not to use the word 'aphrodisiac' and instead advertise the product as one that promotes a 'happy and healthy family'. They are not ready to do so," says N Vimala, Kerala's deputy drugs controller (Ayush). Sherin C Johnson, marketing manager of Kunnath, counters, "We are not saying we cure. We just say it improves certain symptoms."

Madhya Pradesh authorities have issued a notice to Sri Marvel Pharmaceuticals, registered in Indore as the manufacturer of Sandhi Sudha. Those promoting Sandhi Sudha Plus deny any violation.

"In fact, we voluntarily approached the ASCI [Advertising Standards Council of India]... with our infomercial before commencing our promotions on television channels and have duly received the clearance from ASCI clearly stating that it does not contravene the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act," wrote Ravindra Soni, director, Telemart Shopping Network Private Limited, in reply to an email sent on the consumer complaint ID of Sandhi Sudha Plus. "And most importantly, we have never ever claimed to offer any kind of Remedy for any Disease or Ailment of any kind. Sandhi Sudha Plus is purely meant for pain relief..."

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