Medicines agency sees news portal photos as advertising

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Source: Merilin Pärli/ERR

Inspectors of the State Agency of Medicines have targeted the photo selection of ERR's online news desk demanding the portal remove photographs depicting medicinal products attached to articles on Estonia's pharmacy reform as it finds they constitute advertising.

The State Agency of Medicines is demanding the images be replaced immediately.

"Several images depict specific medicinal products, which is why we can say they constitute advertising. Requirements for advertising of medicinal products can be found in the Medicinal Products Act. Even though the article in question makes no effort to market the drugs depicted, use of such images is improper in the interests of clarity. That is why we ask you to replace the images attached to articles already published and, in the future, use images that do not either directly or indirectly reference specific pharmaceuticals," Keili Kondike, senior inspector of the agency's supervision department, wrote to ERR.

The news desk told the agency that ERR has not been paid for depicting these products and the photos have been taken by its employees during working time. Furthermore, the photos do not constitute advertising as ERR is an advert-free environment. Additionally, there is no law against taking photos of medicinal products, which is why the news desk finds the agency's demands unfounded.

The agency was not satisfied by ERR's reply and repeated its demand. The watchdog's legal adviser Heleni Mäe said pharmaceuticals are special goods in terms of their use and composition, which is why they are subject to special requirements. The State Agency of Medicines has the right to issue precepts and order penalty payments to ensure compliance, the legal adviser wrote.

The ERR news desk maintains the images do not constitute pharmaceutical advertising and finds that the agency is spending working hours on questionable activities.

"It has always seemed to me that the State Agency of Medicines is very busy. Now it turns out they have time to give journalists pointers concerning choice of images," head of the news desk Anvar Samost said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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