Adverts and ethics

Published January 21, 2022

I WISH to bring to the attention of the medical regulatory authorities recent television advertisements of a cough syrup which shows a man asking his son to bring him a specific cough syrup. When the son does so, the man proceeds to drink from the bottle directly without any dose measurement. The message in this advertisement is highly unethical and reckless. One should never take medicine without first measuring its proper dosage.

The administration of any medication by the bottle negates standard medical ethical practices, besides being extremely dangerous. Mass messaging through the media plays a big role in influencing public behaviour and their mindsets. Any kind of messaging, be it positive or negative, has an impact on society.

Keeping in mind the fact that a large fraction of the country’s population is uneducated, there is a considerable risk that they may blindly follow what is shown on the television without due consideration about the consequences of their actions.

Hence, pharmaceutical companies and their teams must ensure compliance with ethical medical and advertisement practices, and should refrain from depicting practices that could endanger human health.

Advertising agencies, especially those marketing health-related products, should have dedicated teams to oversee if their content is in violation of medical ethics, besides upholding the general values of ethical advertisement. This step would curtail wrongful and reckless messaging, which is at present quite commonplace in advertising content.

Dr Shahnaz Shallwani
Karachi

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2022

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