China plans to ban drug and medical advertisements to help regulate the market and guarantee the safety of products as the number of illegal goods being advertised soars, state media has reported.
The Xinhua news agency quoted Vice-Minister of Health Gao Qiang telling a panel discussion at China's ongoing parliament session: "Ads of drugs and medical services have to be banned.
"It's improper for hospitals and pharmaceutical enterprises to put up ads at the patients' expenses."
Late last year, the State Food and Drugs Administration said 95% of advertisements for medicine in newspapers were illegal.
Many of them were for prescription drugs, which are only supposed to be published in professional medical journals, according to China's advertising laws.
TV commercials for drugs were also highly untrustworthy, said a study conducted by the administration.
Gao said his ministry was drafting a proposal to the State Council, China's cabinet, to ban medical advertisements.
China's annual spending on medical advertisements has topped four billion yuan ($480 million) for the past three years, said Liu Yuting, deputy director of the General Administration for Industry and Commerce.
Besides TV commercials, the print media and internet, medical advertisements are constantly found in unauthorised leaflets handed out by the roadside.
"It's improper for hospitals and pharmaceutical enterprises to put up ads at the patients' expenses"
China's vice-minister of health
Liu said his administration uncovered more than 40,000 illegal advertisements of health-related products between 2001 and 2004.
Nearly 75% of them were placed by medical institutions, boasting dubious cures for cancer and other deadly diseases.
"We'll strictly enforce the banning rule, should it be approved by the State Council," said Liu. "This will hopefully help curb rampant exaggerated advertisements."