China has revised its regulations on medical service advertisements in an attempt to put a stop to false and misleading advertising.
The new regulations, which will take effect on January 1, 2007, will eliminate exaggeration of the effects of certain medical treatments by banning the mention of any disease names, the Beijing News reported.
An advertisement can reveal no more than the following information: name of the medical institution, its address and phone number, specialty and qualification, type of ownership, number of beds and opening hours.
Medical advertisements will continue to be approved by provincial health authorities, but more emphasis will be placed on vetting the text used in the adverts to market the products.
"No change can be made to the approved advertisements. Not even a comma can be changed," Zhou Jun, a senior official from the Ministry of Health, was quoted as saying.
The new regulations also increased the penalty for violating the law. In serious cases, medical institutions can be suspended or even have their licenses revoked.
Statistics show that the medical industry was the sixth largest spender on advertising in 2005, spending 7.6 billion yuan (96 million U.S. dollars).
Illegal and false medical advertisements have been on rise. In the first nine months of the year, 4,644 cases were dealt with by the authorities.
The new regulations are expected to have an adverse impact on China's burgeoning private hospitals.
"If the new regulations are enforced, medical advertisements will be mere announcements," the China Business News quoted an unidentified source with a Shanghai-based private hospital as saying.
Private hospitals are usually not designated hospitals for government workers or clients of medical insurance, hence they need advertising more than their state-owned counterparts, the source said.