Beware of Illegal Advertisements

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Ministry of Health, MOH regrets, advertising of illegal health products in print and electronic media, websites, traffic light poles and other public focus points by some unscrupulous party. These ads often include “magic bullet” promises such as 100% cure for cancer, immediate relief from diabetes, sustained weight loss and often vulgar or embarrassing claims promising increased sexual performance to entice consumers to purchase those products.

MOH controls advertising of products and services related to health through Medicines Advertisements Board (MAB) which is established under Medicines (Advertisement and Sale) Act 1956. With regards to medicines, only registered products (with valid MLA registration number) are allowed to be advertised as those products are assured safe for consumption.

Each MAB approved advertisement will be given a serial number which must be displayed on the advertisement for instance, KKLIU/1234/ABCDE. This involves approval of advertisements of supplements, traditional medicines and over-the-counter products registered with the MOH. These advertisements have undergone rigorous scrutiny such as screening, verification and review by MAB prior to approval. This is to ensure presentation of non-misleading, accurate and evidence based information to customers. Medical claims in advertising are authorized based on approved indication by Drug Control Authority (DCA) and the publication of the respective medical claims should observe the provisions of the 1956 Act as well as the guidelines and policies made by the MAB.

Generally, MAB regulates advertisements on the basis as below:

  1. All supplements, traditional medicines and over-the-counter products registered with the MOH must obtained an approval form MAB prior to its advertisement in any media. The a approval number must be displayed in the advertisement.
  2. Health and beauty products advertising is strictly prohibited to make medical claims for the purpose of prevention, treatment or diagnosis of hypertension, diabetes, cancer, increase sexual functions and other disease as specified in the schedule under section 3 of the Medicines (Advertisement and Sale) Act 1956, namely, diseases or defects of the kidney, diseases or defects of the heart, diabetes, epilepsy or fits, paralysis, tuberculosis, asthma, leprosy, cancer, deafness, drug addiction, hernia or rupture, diseases of the eye, hypertension, mental disorder, infertility, frigidity, impairment of the sexual function or impotency, venereal disease and nervous debility, or other complaint or infirmity, arising from or relating to sexual intercourse.
  3. In addition, advertising is not allowed to claim superlatives such as, "The most excellent", "The Best", "Number 1" and other exaggerating claims.
  4. Advertising of cosmetic products is not permitted to make claims beyond the scope of the definition of cosmetics that is cosmetics function to cleanse, refresh and fragrance and the advertising must be subject to "Cosmetic Advertising Code.”
  5. Advertising of food / drink and medical devices, is not vetted by MOH, however must comply with the Food Act 1983 and Medical Device Act 2012 respectively.


Advertisements must be regulated to ensure that the information received by customers is not misleading, accurate and supported by authenticated evidence. However, MOH is facing with rampant illegal advertising by some selfish and profit minded marketers. These illegal advertisements are found in public attraction places such as bus stop, lamp post, and published in leaflets and websites. These ads do not go through screening and evaluation processes by MOH. It is a challenged for the Authority difficulties to curb these illegal ads as the publication does not take place through legitimate channels. The media is expected to be more responsible in publications of advertisements of food, cosmetic and medical devices as these products are not required to be vetted by MAB. These ads with exaggerated medical claims should be dismissed or at least referred to MOH prior to publication.

Nevertheless, MOH is constantly monitoring these ads. In 2011, MOH has produced a total of 204 warning letters and 42 cases were referred for investigation. A total of 41 cases has been brought to the court with the sum of fine is RM 56,800.00.   As of the month of May 2012, a total of 197 warning letters were issued and a total of 74 cases were referred for investigation and legal actions to be taken. A total of 24 cases has been brought to the court with the sum of fine is RM 24,500.00.   Actions will be taken against advertisers as well as the respective media.

This ministry advises the public to play an important role in overcoming this issue as without demand, there would be no offer. Therefore, the public advised to act discerningly and not be easily fooled. Ensure that an advertisement containing medical claims has KKLIU approval number before reading it. The public is urged not to purchase health products from unreliable sources such as street peddlers, stalls and internet websites. Treasure your health as it is very precious and should not be put at stake with the consumption of products from dubious sources. Unregistered and adulterated health products or cosmetics without notification are dangerous and hazardous to health.

Warning is extended to any person who participated in the publication of advertisements unauthorized by the MAB which could lead to liability of offence under section 5 of the Medicines (Advertisement and Sale) Act 1956.

The public can surf ->public->search adulterated products for an update on health products / cosmetics which the MOH have confiscated and at to check whether a product is approved by the MOH or have been notified of cosmetic products with the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau, the website provides enormous information such as product registration and details of products withdrawn from the market.   

Director General of Health Malaysia
Ministry of Health Malaysia

13 August 2012