Advertisements and promotions of therapeutic products

Advertisers are responsible in ensuring compliance with legislation and guidelines before advertising and promoting therapeutic products in Singapore.

Advertisements and promotions of therapeutic products

Advertisements of therapeutic products do not require prior approval from us. However, you have to ensure that the advertisements comply with the principles and requirements as stated in the Health Products Act (HPA)295 KBand the Health Products (Advertisement of Therapeutic Products) Regulations63.6 KB.

The therapeutic product advertisement must be aligned with the intended uses (indications), as per its registration.

Advertisements refer to any information that can promote the sale or use of the therapeutic products. It can be in any forms or media, including but not limited to:

  • Publication in a newspaper, magazine, journal or other periodical.
  • Display of posters or notices.
  • Circulars, brochures, pamphlets, books.
  • Letters addressed to individuals or organisational bodies.
  • Photographs or films.
  • Sound broadcasting, television, the internet (such as e-commerce sites and microsites), digital interactive media and social media channels (such as blogs, Facebook and Instagram).
  • Public demonstration of the use of the product.
  • Offer of trials of the product to members of the public.
  • Door to door sales.
  • Exhibitions.
  • Competitions.
  • Any other activity intended to introduce, publicise or raise the profile or public awareness or visibility of any therapeutic product for the purpose of promoting the sale or use of it.

General requirements

You must adhere to the following general requirements for advertisements of therapeutic products. You are not allowed to:

  • Advertise an unregistered therapeutic product.
  • Advertise an unregistered indication of a registered therapeutic product.
  • Make any false or misleading claims or representations.
  • Make unsubstantiated claims.
  • Target advertising material at children under 14 years old.
  • Make claims that mislead by emphasis, contrast or omission with regard to the safety, quality or efficacy of the therapeutic product.
  • Make claims that give rise to any unrealistic expectations with regard to the effectiveness of the therapeutic product.
  • Make claims that cause fear, alarm or distress to the public.
  • Encourage inappropriate or excessive use.
  • Suggest guaranteed results without side effects.
  • Encourage incorrect use or self-treatment of serious diseases and discourage from seeking a medical professional's advice.
  • Falsely claim any endorsement by public authority.
  • Include endorsements or recommendations by any healthcare professional or a person of celebrity, social or professional status.
  • 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.

Further requirements

Advertisements of prescription-only medicines (POM)

Advertisements of POM directed to the public is prohibited. Hence, these advertisements must not be made available in any public places, including waiting areas of hospitals and clinics.

Comparative claims

You must ensure that advertisements directed to the public do not contain comparative claims against another named therapeutic product or brand. However, comparison among products within the same brand by the same company to highlight differences between the products is allowed.

Any comparative claims must not mislead the public about the product being advertised, or about any product which it is compared with.

Other prohibitions

You must not advertise to the public any advertisements that claims, indicates or suggests, whether expressly or implicitly, that the therapeutic product:

  • Will prevent, alleviate or cure any of the specified diseases and conditions in the Second Schedule to the regulations.
  • Will prevent or alleviate any sign or symptom clinically attributable with any of the specified diseases and conditions in the Second Schedule to the regulations.
  • Has similar properties or characteristics, or works as well as, a product that is commonly used for the purpose of treating any specified disease or condition.

In addition to the advertisement guidelines above, sales promotion activities directed to the public are not allowed to:

  • Offer any prizes through activities such as lucky draws, dips and contests as an inducement to purchase the therapeutic product.
  • Offer any medicinal or health products with a therapeutic product.
  • Offer any sample of the therapeutic product.

Advertisements of pharmacy-only medicines

You are required to prominently display the following advisories for all direct-to-consumers advertisements of pharmacy-only medicines (P-medicines):

  • Appropriate statements advising consumers to read the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) or the Product Insert (PI).
  • Appropriate statements advising consumers to consult their healthcare professionals on the use of the medicine or if symptoms persist.

Specific advisories or warning statements may be required for advertisements of specific P-medicines, which will be communicated to you individually either when you register your product, or through a written notice or directive issued by us.

Examples of specific advisory or warning statements may include:

  • Known side effects
  • Contraindications
  • Precautions
  • Age restrictions

Who are healthcare professionals

Healthcare professionals, as specified in the First Schedule to the Regulations, includes:

  • Qualified practitioners.
  • Registered pharmacists.
  • Enrolled nurses, registered nurses and registered midwives.
  • Persons undergoing training with a view to becoming practitioners, pharmacists, enrolled nurses, registered nurses or registered midwives.

Advertisements of prescription-only medicines and specified diseases and conditions

Advertisements of prescription-only medicines (POM) or advertisements making reference to any specified diseases and conditions are only allowed in the following instances:

  • Advertisements distributed to relevant healthcare professionals.
  • Reference or trade advertisements.
  • For the purpose of information published on corporate websites, press releases and product launch events that are not opened to the public. Such information must be non-promotional and any representation concerning the therapeutic product's intended purpose and efficacy must be consistent with its registration or supported by evidence and any risk-benefit profile.
  • Advertisements distributed at pharmaceutical trade fairs, exhibitions and scientific conferences, or forums which are restricted in attendance to medical or scientific professionals, and not opened to the general public.

Comparative claims

Comparative claims of therapeutic product are allowed in the following instances:

  • Advertisements distributed to relevant healthcare professionals.
  • Advertisements distributed at pharmaceutical trade fairs, exhibitions and scientific conferences, or forums which are restricted in attendance to medical or scientific professionals, and not opened to the general public.

Corporate websites

Corporate websites refer to internet websites of product registrants or licensees that provide information about the company.

Local corporate websites belonging to product registrants and licensees may include factual information about their products, including information on POM and the list of specified diseases and conditions.

Such information must be non-promotional, consistent with its registration or supported by evidence. It must not contain promotional elements for the purpose of inducing sales or usage of the product.

Discussion boards or forums relating to the product are not allowed on corporate websites.

Advertisements for unregistered therapeutic products or their unapproved uses

An advertisement of an unregistered therapeutic product may only be made under the following scenarios:

  • In the form of an article in a medical or scientific journal, review or publication.
  • In the course of providing or exchanging scientific or medical information at, and in accordance with the published programme or agenda of, a scientific conference or forum that is a private event.
  • At a pharmaceutical trade fair, pharmaceutical trade exhibition, scientific conference or scientific forum that is a private event. This therapeutic product must be approved, licensed or registered in at least one country outside Singapore, and contain a statement that it is not registered in Singapore.

In addition, any advertisement of an unregistered therapeutic product may contain a representation concerning its intended purpose or efficacy, which must be substantiated by objective scientific evidence.

Sales promotion activities

You must not, in the course of conducting the sales promotion, offer any prize to motivate the wholesale purchase of a registered therapeutic product.

As part of sales promotion, a registered therapeutic product may be offered together with any medicinal or health product if they are intended to be supplied:

  • To a qualified practitioner or a registered pharmacist.
  • By wholesale by a person with a valid wholesaler's licence.

Samples of registered therapeutic product may be distributed to qualified healthcare professionals:

  • At their institution of practice in accordance to each institution's policies.
  • At pharmaceutical trade fairs or exhibitions, scientific conferences or forums, where there is no attendance by the public. You should ensure that the sample is distributed appropriately, for example, samples of POM should only be distributed to qualified practitioners at these events.

Corrective measures to contravening advertisements

You may be required to submit copies of advertisements to us when called upon. If your advertisement is found to breach the HPA and regulations, you may be required to do any or all of the following:

  • Stop the advertisement immediately.
  • Take reasonable measures to remove the offending advertisements that have been published or distributed.
  • Publish a corrective advertisement in a manner and with content specified by us.

A corrective advertisement typically contains:

  • An expression of regret or apology.
  • A corrective statement issued upon our order, about the product concerned.
  • Statement on the breach and a description of the correct facts.
  • Description of the case and including where and when the offending advertisement was placed.
  • Contact information for the public.

Note: Penalties may be imposed on errant advertisers who breach the HPA and regulations. Such penalties include a fine or imprisonment or both.

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).

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