NOTICE PAPER NO. 668
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 1 NOVEMBER 2021
Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Yip Hon Weng
MP for Yio Chu Kang SMC
Question No. 1065
To ask the Minister for Health with regard to the recent incident of a Singapore-based company fined for making false claims about its health supplements (a) whether HSA takes into account the company’s profits from the sale of the products and the number of customers involved, in determining the penalty to be meted out; (b) whether the regulatory action serves as a proportionate and appropriate deterrent; and (c) why is the company not penalised earlier when its false claims have come to light since 2016.
Anyone who publishes advertisements on health supplements which contain prohibited claims that the product will prevent or cure diseases such as cancer or diabetes can be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed up to two years under the Medicines Act. This case is the first prosecution of this offence to date. Although the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) generally adopts a light-touch approach for first-time offenders who are remorseful, firm prosecution action was taken in the present case in light of the company’s persistent disregard of the advisories issued.
In prosecuting the company, HSA had also considered that the offences were committed with the knowledge that the publicity materials would be used to reach out to a wider audience through the company’s product distributors. However, the company’s profits from the sale of the products were not factored into the sentencing as there was insufficient evidence to establish a link between the publication of these advertisements and the company’s earnings. In line with HSA’s submissions, the Court ultimately imposed a $3,000 fine out of the maximum prescribed fine of $5,000 on the single proceeded charge. Apart from the penalty imposed by the Court, HSA has also publicised this case on its website and published advisories to educate and warn consumers against falling prey to the company’s misleading claims.