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Experts advocate amendment to DMR Act, imposing substantial penalties for non-compliance

May 10,2024

Arogya Bharati and the Innovative Thought Forum are advocating for changes to the Drugs and Magic Remedies (DMR) (Objectionable Advertisements) Act. They propose amendments that include imposing hefty penalties for non-conformity with the regulations.

At a recently concluded roundtable of experts from allopathy, Ayush, consumer education and advocacy, regulatory agencies among other stakeholders, hosted by Arogya Bharati and the Innovative Thought Forum saw the DMR Act coming under severe criticism.

S B Dangayach, national vice president, Arogya Bharati and founder trustee, Innovative Thought Forum who moderated the roundtable, said that while the Act needs to be revamped totally, advertising agencies should also be made responsible along with the non-complying parties. Advertisements should be across electronic channels, print and social media platforms.

Vernacular newspapers must be scrutinized for objectionable advertisements as the readership mainly comprise the rural populace. There should be a provision for ‘corrective advertisement’ in case violation is established and the party is penalized. Advertising Standards Council of India should take serious cognisance of the rules. There needs to be a provision for pre- vetting of advertisements, he added.

Providing a background of the Act, the roundtable experts said that manufacture, sale and distribution of drugs of all kinds came under radar of British government in India which led to the formation of drug enquiry committee (DEC) in 1930 and Col (Dr) R N Chopra was its chairman. Chopra committee report is considered as the starting point of several legislations in the field of pharmaceuticals such as the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940.

Before independence and after, there was widespread advertising of all types of allopathic and Indian systems of medicines with false, misleading and irrational claims luring people to consume them with several harmful side effects, they said.

To this end, the DMR Act, 1954 was introduced to check self-medication for 54 diseases as specified in the schedule. Hence the law prohibited all types of public communication or advertisements for drugs meant for prevention, diagnostics, mitigation and treatment. This Act indirectly urged all the people to go through registered medical practitioners (RMPs) for treatment of specified diseases and conditions.

Over time, the Act came under severe criticism compelling government to go in for its amendment in 2020. In this version, advertisement definition was expanded to include electronic and other media and expand the list of diseases from 54 to 78. But the draft remained on paper for reasons unknown, said Dangayach.

According to Dr Ashok Varshney, organising secretary, Arogya Bharati, the DMR Act, should go in for a pragmatic restructuring. He insisted the complete overhaul and drafting of a fresh Act should be relevant in the current context.

Even as Section 7 of the existing DMR Act is on penalties, yet it is not a deterrent in today’s context. Along with its poor implementation, CDSCO drug inspectors are not empowered to take any punitive actions, against the defaulters of the Act, said the roundtable panel.

The way forward would be to bring in the flexibility of compulsory review and makes changes every 5 years to keep the Act relevant. Efforts on simplification of the contents with lucid and unambiguous language to reduce litigation needs to be looked into. Importance to practical implementation of the Act, keeping in mind the limited manpower needs to be addressed. Overall the changes to make Act simple, sensible, pragmatic and consumer-oriented is much-desired, said Dangayach.

Source: Pharmabiz

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