Prescribed or not, drugs advertisements must follow various restrictions imposed by different entities, including federal laws and some of the sector’s own specifications
Advertising in Brazil is a large, fast-growing market. Despite the new challenges brought by the development of digital media and the current difficulties seen in some other countries, this industry keeps expanding.
This can be proven with numbers. Zenith Optimedia estimates that the Brazilian advertising market will be the 5th largest in the world by 2015, overtaking the United Kingdom. In 2013, BRL 32,2 billion was invested in advertising in Brazil, an increase of almost 7% in comparison to the previous year.
The world’s largest advertising agencies are all established in Brazil, and they are all inserted in a dynamic market, that deals with new platforms, new products and of course, new rules.
Regulations for advertising in Brazil are always changing, either by laws decreed by governmental spheres or by the entities that are responsible for regulating this industry in the country.
Who regulates it
There is a joint effort to regulate advertising in Brazil. Many laws enacted by municipal, state and federal government affect this industry directly.
There are other entities that monitor advertising for specific areas. An example is Tribunais Eleitorais, or Electoral Courts, who are responsible for political adverts.
In case of medication and other health products, Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária, Anvisa or National Agency of Health Surveillance, is one of the main entities responsible for setting restrictions for medical advertising, along with CONAR and federal laws.
The main entity responsible for the regulation of advertising in Brazil is a non-governmental organization known as Conselho Nacional de Autorregulamentação Publicitária, CONAR or National Council of Self-Regulation Advertising.
CONAR’s main function is to supervise the principal ethics in the advertising industry. They have a board of professionals that receive any complaints made by customers, companies, organizations or authorities that might have been offended, attacked or misled by an advertisement or promotional action.
Based on such complaints, CONAR’s board decides if the advert being analyzed is somehow offensive or if it breaches the Brazilian advertising industry ethics code. Consequences can vary from the edit of an advertisement to its complete removal, and even fines, in some cases.
Brazil’s first advertising ethics code was published in 1977, two years before the foundation of CONAR. The entity is composed of members from various sectors related to this industry, such as advertisers, agencies and even specialized press vehicles.
The Ministry of Health treats advertising for medication as a delicate subject. The United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) states that 29% of the deaths in Brazil are caused by drug intoxication and a large share of it is a result from self-medication.
In order to fix this situation and to reduce the indiscriminate use of drugs in the country, advertising of such items undergo various restrictions. They can be categorized into two different groups: medication that can be sold to anyone, without prescription, and those that can only be sold if prescribed by a doctor.
Every advertisement involving medication in Brazil must be accompanied by a warning indicating that, if symptoms persist, a doctor must be consulted.
Medication advertisements must not contain statements that cannot be scientifically proven or testimonials from professionals that are not legally qualified to recommend such items.
Also, advertising of certain drugs must be accompanied by specific warnings. One of the most notable cases are the ones where medication containing Aspirin - which must warn consumers that the use of this drug is not recommended if there is a suspicion of Dengue. There must be specific warnings for 20 other active ingredients, including nicotine, paracetamol and ibuprofen.
The main restriction for prescribed medication is that it can only be advertised in specialized publications.
This means that adverts for controlled drugs can only be conveyed in scientific magazines or other vehicles whose target market are solely health institutions and professionals.
Generic drugs advertisements, on the other hand, can be conveyed in campaigns sponsored by the Ministry of Health and in specific locations that will sell them.
Drugs that do not require a medical prescription can be sold Over The Counter but are still subject to many restrictions. Any advertisement must include, for example, warnings about the risks of their abusive use.
Other restrictions that apply to non-prescribed medication advertisements are:
- Adverts cannot suggest that the drug will cure or prevent any disease that should be treated under medical supervision
- Adverts cannot offer prizes, participation in contests or any similar actions that might encourage the unnecessary use of drugs
- Any inference to the excessive use of the product must be avoided
- Adverts cannot encourage the use of drugs by children nor be directed towards them
- Adverts cannot show characters that found in the use of drugs the solution for emotional or mood problems
- The choice of words must be clear and ambiguities or double interpretation must be avoided
- Adverts cannot lead to the feeling that consumers might acquire diseases if the drug is not used or if a certain treatment is not adopted
- Comparisons with other brands are only allowed if they can easily be perceived by the consumers or are based on clinical or scientific evidence
- Scientific jargon that might suggest a nonexistent scientific basis of the drug is forbidden
- Adverts cannot grant consumers their money back if the medication proves inefficient
- Whenever medication is offered via phone or e-mail, the advertiser’s company name and address must be announced, so it is easier to perform enforcement actions and complaints