What would it take for you to buy an anti-impotency drug? David Beckham running around a football field speaking in Mandarin claiming it’s his secret weapon with which he satisfies Posh, perhaps? With the way laws are these days in certain countries and with different laws operating amongst different mediums, David Beckham can’t sue the company that used his name and image with a voiceover to endorse this product, even though they didn’t have his consent.
From hair loss treatments to cures for chronic diseases, Chinese consumers are bombarded with advertisements making false or largely exaggerated claims. Many fake, untested and unlicensed medical products are heavily promoted on billboards, TV, newspapers and magazines all over China. Even after the government restricted the advertising of unlicensed medications, which cost one leading Chinese search engine 2.1% of its online marketing revenue, untested and unsafe medical products are still heavily promoted and available on the internet.
China is at the forefront of a pharmaceutical nightmare which sees millions of unlicensed and untested medical products being sold throughout the world. The problem is largely entwined with a lack of regulation and poor law enforcement. In 2007, Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of China’s State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), was given the death sentence for taking bribes from various firms in exchange for state licenses related to product safety. In the same year, the SFDA counted 329,613 cases of the distribution of unlicensed drugs and medical products.
Even in the western world, the danger of counterfeit drugs is very real. With internet regulations being some of the hardest to enforce, due to unclear boarders and boundaries, the danger in purchasing medical treatments online is that you never really know what you’re getting or where it’s coming from. Many people tend to self-diagnose these days rather than visit their doctor or an expert. The risk involved in this is not only wrongly guessing what would be the best treatment for you, but also acquiring it, or a fake version of it, from an untrustworthy source.
In another effort to clean up its £80 billion medications market, China banned actors from playing medical experts in advertisements after several fake drug experts were exposed in online ads. Drug piracy is another world-wide problem. Earlier this year in China, the government ordered doctors to stop prescribing a well-known diabetes drug after a fake batch was linked to the deaths of two patients.
The medical industry and regulatory bodies are there to help consumers get the safest and best treatments and products available. It’s always advisable to consult your doctor or a specialist and get their expert knowledge and advice, rather than self-diagnosing and ending up the poorer for it in more ways than one.