Advertisements and promotions of Medicinal Products

Advertisers are responsible for ensuring compliance with legislation and guidelines before advertising medicinal products and traditional medicinal materials.

What are advertisements and sales promotions

A medical advertisement, as defined in the Medicines Act and Medicines (Medical Advertisements) Regulations, means any advertisement of the medicinal product, and includes every form of advertising:

  • In a publication.
  • In the display of any notice or signboard.
  • By means of any catalogue, price list, letter (whether circular or addressed to a particular person) or other documents.
  • By words inscribed on any article.
  • The exhibition of a photograph or a cinematograph film.
  • By way of sound recording, sound broadcasting or television.
  • In any other way, and any reference to the issue of an advertisement.

A sales promotion as defined in the Medicines (Medical Advertisements) Regulations means any medical advertisement of the medicinal product in the form of a:

  • Sales campaign, including door-to-door sales and price discounts.
  • An exhibition.
  • A competition.
  • Any other activity meant to introduce, publicise or raise the profile, public awareness or visibility of the medicinal product.

Medicinal products

Advertisement and sales promotion permit

You will require a valid permit from us before publishing any medical advertisements or conducting any sales promotion activities directed to the general public for the following types of medicinal products:

  • Chinese Proprietary Medicines.
  • Traditional Indian and Malay Medicines.
  • Homoeopathic Medicines.
  • Quasi-medicinal products, such as medicated soaps, medicated plasters, medicated beverages, medicated toothpastes, lozenges, and vitamin and mineral preparations.
  • Medicated oils and balms.
  • Medicinal products not subject to licensing requirements, such as antiseptic preparations.

Requirements

  • Include the permit number in the advertisement and sales promotion materials, or script for radio advertisement.
  • The advertisement and sales promotion activity is published or conducted in accordance with the permit and has not been amended without prior approval by HSA.

Exceptions for trade, businesses or professions

A permit is not required for the following types of advertisements and sales promotion activities:

  • Medical advertisements or sales promotion activities directed exclusively at a person who may lawfully sell or supply any medicinal product in the course of his trade, business or profession (such as healthcare professionals), and not accessible to the general public.
  • “Reference advertisement” which contains a brief description of a medicinal product, its use, any contraindications and warnings appearing without charge in a publication which is sent or delivered to practitioners or pharmacists by a person who is not involved in the sale of or dealings in that medicinal product as a manufacturer, supplier, retailer, importer or exporter.
  • “Trade advertisement” which is issued in a catalogue, price list or other document for the purpose of supplying the medicinal product by wholesale, but which does not contain any recommendation relating to the use of the product other than as part of the name of the product, or as part of any heading or sub-heading indicating a therapeutic classification.

What is not allowed

The proposed advertisement or promotion materials should not:

  • Make any false or misleading claims or representations.
  • Make unsubstantiated claims.
  • Make comparative claims against another product or brand.
  • Use scientific language and data which the public may not understand or be able to verify.
  • Use exaggerated terms.
  • Contain any language or image that causes fear, alarm, distress to the public of any disease or condition.
  • Encourage inappropriate or excessive use.
  • Suggest guaranteed results without side effects.
  • Encourage incorrect use or self-treatment of serious diseases or discourage from seeking a medical professional's advice.
  • Include any endorsement by healthcare professionals or public authority.
  • Make use of names, logos and trade service marks of other institutions, companies without their permissions.
  • Use the names or logos of HSA and any of our professional groups.
  • Offer refunds, in full or partial amounts, to users of the product.

In addition, sales promotion activities directed at the general public should not:

  • Offer a medicinal product free of charge with the purchase of a non-medicinal product.
  • Offer prizes through lucky draws or contests with the purchase of the product with terms such as "win a prize" or "get a lucky draw" or equivalent.
  • Use terms such as "free", "complimentary", "get a gift" or equivalent.
  • Distribute samples of Chinese Proprietary Medicines, Traditional Indian and Malay medicines and Homoeopathic Medicines.

Application types

New application

Each advertisement and sales promotion permit is valid for one year from its date of issuance, which you may then renew annually.

Type of advertisement or promotion Number and type of applications required

Single copy, containing one or more languages

One advertisement permit application

Separate copies, each in different languages, such as one in English and one in Chinese

Two advertisement permit applications

Advertisement containing a sales promotion announcement

One advertisement permit application and one sales promotion permit application

Sales promotion activities for up to five products

One sales promotion permit application

Note: For application of sales promotion permit, a copy of Sales Promotion Mechanics is to be submitted as an attachment in the application using the following format:

  1. Name of products.
  2. Promotion method, such as quantum of price discount.
  3. Press advertisement, if any (to provide details).
  4. Promotion materials, such as shelf-talker, wobbler, if any (to provide details).
  5. Promotion venue, such as retail pharmacy, roadshows.

All medical advertisement and sales promotion applications will be evaluated upon submission for compliance to the requirements and appropriateness for advertising to the general public.

Amend application

An amendment is an application for a minor alteration made to an approved advertisement or sales promotion.

Minor alterations may include change of text, inclusion or omission of some words, and change in the visuals along the same concept of the approved advertisement or addition of sales promotion activities such as new banded offers.

If the alterations proposed are major, applicants would need to apply for a new permit instead. Amendment fees are not refundable.

Amendment applications are not required for changes which do not affect the product claims. For example:

  • Re-arranging the text and visual.
  • Updating the company's contact details, such as address and telephone numbers.
  • Updating retailer's logo.
  • Updating the product's usual selling price. 

Renewal application

A renewal application is for an advertisement which has a permit nearing its expiry date. A renewed permit is valid for one year from its previous expiry date.

A system generated renewal notification and reminder will be sent to you via the selected mode of contact indicated in your permit, 60 days and 45 days respectively, before the expiry date of the permit.

For GIRO linked companies, the permit will be automatically renewed unless you opt out from the renewal by the given date stated in the renewal notification. You must use the online ‘Auto Renewal Preference’ function to opt out of auto-renewal.

Note: If the opt out is successful, an acknowledgement statement will be displayed after clicking the "Save" button.

For non-GIRO linked companies, the permit will not be renewed unless you submit a renewal application before its expiry date. The permit will expire and become invalid if it is not renewed before its expiry date.

How to apply

You will need to submit your permit application through PRISM.

You will need the following in order to access  PRISM:

 

Fees and turn-around-time

Refer to the fees and turn-around-time for more information.

Traditional medicinal materials

Advertisements of traditional medicinal materials

Advertisements for traditional medicinal materials that contain medicinal claims need prior approval and must apply for an advertisement permit before advertising.

Advertisements with no medicinal claims do not need prior permit approval. However, dealers must adhere to these requirements:

  • General health claims, such as claims on health maintenance, must be based on traditional or long-standing use, as documented in traditional medicine literature.
  • Only accurate and factual product information may be advertised. All claims must be substantiated.
  • Do not:
    • Make comparative claims against another product or brand.
    • Use scientific language and data which the public may not understand or be able to verify.
    • Use exaggerated terms.
    • Suggest guaranteed results and no side effects.
    • Include any endorsement by healthcare professionals or public authority without their permission.
    • Use the names or logos of HSA and any of our professional groups.

Prohibited diseases and conditions

You are not allowed to claim or indirectly suggest that the product will prevent, alleviate or cure any of the following diseases and conditions which are specified in the legislation:

  1. Blindness
  2. Cancer
  3. Cataract
  4. Drug addiction
  5. Deafness
  6. Diabetes
  7. Epilepsy or fits
  8. Hypertension
  9. Insanity
  10. Kidney diseases
  11. Leprosy
  12. Menstrual disorder
  13. Paralysis
  14. Tuberculosis
  15. Sexual function
  16. Infertility
  17. Impotency
  18. Frigidity
  19. Conception and pregnancy

This prohibition does not apply to any advertisement or publication which is directed at:

  • Practitioners.
  • Pharmacists.
  • Nurses and midwives.
  • Persons undergoing training with a view to becoming practitioners, pharmacists, or nurses and midwives.

However, care must be taken to ensure that these advertisements are not distributed to the general public.

Feedback on advertisements

To report a breach or send a feedback, e-mail the Medical Advertisements & Compliance Monitoring Unit.

Your e-mail should provide:

  • Details of where and when the advertisement was published.
  • A copy or image of the advertisement.
  • Your concerns about the advertisement such as the non-compliance and its corresponding clause, provision or prescribed requirements (if known).

Refer to the Guide on Advertisements and Sales Promotion of Medicinal Products339 KB and the Guide on Advertisements of Traditional Medicinal Materials179 KB for more details.

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