Anti-Alzheimer drink Souvenaid mired in illegal ad controversy -- again

Lee Min-ju  Published 2019.01.08  16:10  Updated 2019.01.08 16:10


Handok has illegally promoted Souvenaid, a new drink for mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease, once again, civic activists said.

The advertisement was misleading the public as if the drink was a pharmaceutical product and that the ad encouraged pharmacists to perform an unlicensed medical act, they said.

Barun Medicine Institute, a civic group of medical professionals, said on Monday that Handok’s ad of Souvenaid violated the Medical Service Act. The group called for the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and local governments to take a stern measure against the pharmaceutical firm.

Handok’s ad of Souvenaid includes a phrase, “A New Solution to Dementia Counseling in Pharmacies: Dementia and Pharmacy.” (Credit: Barun Medicine Institute)

The group claimed that Handok has been promoting the drink through various media as if clinical trials proved the product’s effectiveness in preventing dementia since the market release as “food for special medical purpose” in August.

In October, Handok discontinued the ad after a National Assembly’s audit on the ministry revealed the issue of the confusing ad. However, the company resumed the same commercial in December, according to Barun Medicine Institute.

The ad of Souvenaid includes a phrase, “A New Solution to Dementia Counseling in Pharmacies: Dementia and Pharmacy.” In the ad, Handok emphasizes the role of pharmacies in managing dementia and says pharmacies can offer tools for dementia counseling.

In other advertisements, the company promoted Souvenaid as “a product for dementia prevention” by explaining relations between dementia and nutrition, even though the drink’s efficacy of preventing dementia has not been verified.

The institute filed a complaint with the Ministry of Health and Welfare. In response, the ministry said on Dec. 31 that the ad could conflict with the Medical Service Act. However, “the final decision whether it violated the law should be judged upon specific circumstances,” the ministry added.

The civic group argued Handok was promoting pharmacists’ unlicensed medical practices through the ad of Souvenaid. “Pharmacists are not physicians. If pharmacists offer dementia diagnosis and counseling, it can be regarded as unlicensed medical practice,” the group said.

The group went on to say that if patients rely on the drink, believing that it could prevent dementia, they might miss the right timing for treatment.

“We will continue to monitor illegal ads of Souvenaid. We request to local governments and the food and drug safety ministry to impose strong punishment on the company, as they give administrative orders directly to the offender of the Medical Service Act,” it said.

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