Brazil on Friday slapped a temporary ban on advertisements for over-the-counter remedies for flu symptoms because of fears their widespread use might mask the spread of swine flu.
The prohibition was ordered by the National Health Vigilance Agency (Anvisa), which deemed there was "a special circumstance posing a health risk."
AdvertisementWhile medicines such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and analgesics will still be available in pharmacies, ads on television, radio and the Internet are not permitted under the measure. Advertising for such products in pharmacies is also be proscribed.
"These medicines, sold over the counter in pharmacies, have the ability to relieve flu symptoms and thus obscure the risk situation" for the A(H1N1) swine flu pandemic, an Anvisa spokeswoman told AFP.
The ad ban is aimed at getting people with flu symptoms to see a doctor rather than try to self-medicate, she said.
The over-the-counter remedies do not treat flu viruses themselves, but only alleviate obvious symptoms of headache, sore throats, nasal congestion and muscular aches.
Tamiflu, one of only two drugs shown to be effective in actually treating swine flu, is available in Brazil only on a doctor's prescription after a person is confirmed with a swine flu infection.
Brazil has at least 192 swine flu deaths, according to the health ministry, making it the country with the third highest fatality count in the world, after the United States (426 deaths) and Argentina (404).
A vaccine is being developed against the disease and is being tested in Australia and Germany. It is expected to be commercially available within two to three months.