March 10, 2006

Some medical ads in China full of lies -delegates

BEIJING (Reuters) - China should ban all medical advertising to protect public health, members of parliament were quoted by state media as saying on Friday, accusing most ads of "cheating and misleading" consumers.

Advertisements promising cures for everything from hemorrhoids to balding are plastered all over Chinese cities, on the sides of buses, inside taxis, in newspapers and even crudely glued to lamp posts.

"Nowadays medical advertisements about hospitals and medicines are flooding the Chinese media, and some of them are full of appalling lies," Xinhua news agency quoted Kang Jiaoyang, member of a parliamentary advisory body, as saying.

Some adverts promised "miraculous cures" for cancer and AIDS, added Wu Liying, a delegate from the northeastern province of Liaoning.

"Falling for these lies, many patients have suffered from delayed treatment and even lost their lives," said Wu, a health official.

Another delegate said each year 2.5 million people in China took the wrong medication because of misleading advertising.

Medical care in China was provided free of charge during the Communist heyday, but since the country began reforming its economy in the late 1970s, the sector has become increasingly commercialized and many cannot afford to see a doctor.

Hospitals and pharmaceutical companies collaborate to push their drugs, whose prescription may not be totally appropriate, said delegate Huang Taikang.

"The hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are paying big money for publication and broadcast of cheating ads, while some immoral media organizations simply turn a blind eye to the fake information for the pursuit of profits," Huang said.

The nearly 3,000 delegates to the largely ceremonial National People's Congress are meeting for their 10-day annual session to discuss and approve policies set in place by the ruling Communist Party.