A pharmaceutical company in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region has apologized for business irregularities and suspended advertising of its core product - a medicinal liquor it has promoted as good for health - after recent debates about the product's safety.
Hongmao Pharmaceutical Co, based in Liangcheng county, said on Thursday that it has sent inspection teams to all 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions on the Chinese mainland to rectify "irregularities in advertising". The company said it has heavily relied on advertisements over the past five years to promote Hongmao Yaojiu, a traditional Chinese medicine.
It also intends to fight infringements, such as the counterfeiting of its products, by other companies, it said.
The China Drug Administration ordered the company to explain why it had been punished for false advertising over the past five years, and to provide detailed information about the safety and effectiveness of its product.
The company was drawn into the public eye after a doctor in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, was detained by the Liangcheng police in January claiming he had criminally injured the company by writing in an online article that Hongmao Yaojiu was toxic and the company exaggerated its beneficial effects.
The doctor, Tan Qindong, was released on April 17 by order of Inner Mongolia's top prosecuting authority, which said it reviewed the case and found insufficient evidence to support criminal accusations.
The company said it had followed regulations in advertising, but some distributors and retailers had violated regulations. The advertising was stopped in December on orders from the drug supervision authority in Inner Mongolia.
The company claimed it had done trials and proved the safety of its product, as long as it is taken correctly and in the right dosage.
Li Enze, a lawyer at Beijing Impact Law Firm, said irregularities existed in advertisements for Hongmao Yaojiu, including branding the over-the-counter TCM product as being suitable for everyone. An attitude of local protectionism led to lax scrutiny of the company by authorities in Inner Mongolia, he said, adding that other drug or healthcare companies have similar irregularities in their advertising.
"Punishments for drug and healthcare product advertising violations are too lenient," Li said. "We need more severe punishments to deter such violations."