Thursday, 31 January 2013

In China, celebrities think twice about selling snake oil

Song Dandan (宋丹丹) promoted OTC remedy linked to liver toxicity
A Chinese actress who endorsed a cold remedy for children, which according to rumors swirling around microblogs is "proven to be poisonous to children's livers," has received unexpected praise after stating that she will never again endorse any medicine products.
The claim, made by sitcom actress Song Dandan (宋丹丹) on Friday, has led to public debate over whether celebrities should be involved in promoting medicine, though the company has denied the medicine is harmful. Song made these statements after reading a popular microblog thread that stated that Youkadan, a cold remedy for children produced by the Renhe Group in Jiangxi Province, is dangerous to children's livers. The company has now changed the medicine's instructions to explicitly state it should not be used on children below one year old.
"I'm surprised to hear that Youkadan is harmful to children's health. My agent and I were extremely cautious when considering endorsing this medicine and we had heard that the manufacturer and medicine authorities had done comprehensive checks of the medicine," Song said on her microblog.
"If the claim on the Internet is true, I will sincerely apologize to customers through the media," she said, swearing that she will never again endorse any medicine products as she could not be sure of the products' true quality and nature.
The Renhe Group said on Saturday that they had changed Youkadan's medical instructions according to a State Food and Drug Administration's notice regarding drugs that contain adamantanamine hydrochloride.
Youkadan is not poisonous to children's livers, the Renhe Group claimed, adding that the administration decided to ban the use of the adamantanamine on children below one year old "due to a lack of evidence determining the effect and safety of the adamantanamine on the age group."
Though the Renhe Group's reputation has been cleared by the authorities, the episode nevertheless led to appeals that celebrities should refrain from endorsing food and medical products.
Song, who has played the role of a caring, responsible mother in sitcoms, also won the public's sympathy as she was one of the few celebrities that stood out and tried to shoulder her responsibility for endorsing a brand.
"I think Song's oath not to endorse medical products anymore is very responsible, because celebrities have a huge influence but don't have the means to check whether the products would be harmful to people," Hu Yuan, a pregnant woman in Beijing, said. "Celebrities should not abuse their influence to pursue personal wealth," she added.
"It's fine for celebrities to endorse any product they wish because it is not their job to determine a product's quality. But given the food safety issues and irregularities in China's medical and health care product markets, they should protect their reputation and not endorse products that look fishy," Shen Dong, a TV director in Beijing, told the Global Times.
On May 26, 2009, a legal interpretation was issued from the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate, stipulating that any individuals that assist in the sale of fake drugs by advertising them will be treated as accomplices.
When dealing with drug advertisements, celebrities should not only check the medicine's drug approval number, but also consult professionals to check the credentials of the medicine and its producers' qualifications and quality, Zhang Yongjian, a food and drug expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
In April 2012, the Xiuzheng Pharmaceutical Group, a leading Chinese drug maker, was revealed to have been buying capsules containing toxic chemicals made by illegal drug makers. Though all the medicines involved had received approval from the authorities, the ten celebrities were still criticized for abusing their influence to endorse Xiuzheng's products.
Source: Global Times

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