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In brief

The Health Sciences Authority of Singapore (HSA) has been clamping down on the sale of products with false and misleading claims that purport to diagnose, prevent or treat COVID-19. Through intensified surveillance on online marketplaces and local retailers, the HSA has taken down more than 1700 listings of such products online, and issued more than 1600 warning letters to sellers and companies marketing such products.


Amongst the errant listings were various COVID-19 test kits for home use, which were accompanied by fraudulent claims such as “positive results may be visible (in) as soon as two minutes”. The test kits sold were found to have inherent design and technological limitations that could result in inaccurate or misleading findings. The HSA has stressed that it has not approved any COVID-19 test kits for home use, and that testing for COVID-19 in Singapore could only be done by clinical laboratories or medical professionals in clinics and hospitals.

A large number of hand sanitisers and disinfectant sprays also included claims such as “protects against Coronavirus”, “kill viruses including coronavirus” and “stops coronavirus”. These were found to be misleading insofar as they inaccurately gave the impression that the sanitisers are sufficient to eliminate all germs and thereby protect the user from the virus.

The HSA has emphasised that claims relating to COVID-19 have to be supported by appropriate scientific evidence, and that products carrying such claims must be evaluated and registered by HSA before it can be supplied. The HSA further noted that there is currently no evidence that any health supplement, Chinese proprietary medicine, traditional medicine or herb can boost the immune system specifically to help prevent, protect against or treat COVID-19. Accordingly, dealers and sellers should not fraudulently give consumers the false impression that use of their products will protect the user from contracting the virus.

Retailers who falsely advertise products as preventing or treating COVID-19 may face a fine of up to S$20,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.

The swift action taken by HSA represents the strict stance that HSA has consistently taken towards false or misleading labels. Intensified surveillance efforts are expected to continue in the interest of public health and safety. Dealers and retailers of health products should familiarise themselves with the applicable regulatory requirements or restrictions on labelling for their products, so as to avoid inadvertently contravening health product laws and regulations during this critical period.

More information about the HSA’s surveillance efforts can be found here.

This alert has been featured on the Singapore Healthcare newsletter | May 2020.

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Andy Leck is the managing principal of Baker McKenzie.Wong & Leow. Mr. Leck is recognised by the world’s leading industry and legal publications as a leader in his field. Asian Legal Business notes that he “always gives good, quick advice, [is] client-focused and has strong technical knowledge for his areas of practice”. Alongside his current role as managing principal, Mr. Leck has held several leadership positions in the Firm and externally as a leading IP practitioner. He currently serves on the International Trademark Association's Board of Directors and is a member of the Singapore Copyright Tribunal.


Ren Jun is an associate principal of Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow. Ren Jun extensively represents local and international intellectual property-intensive clients in both contentious and non-contentious IP matters, such as anti-counterfeiting; civil and criminal litigation; commercial issues; regulatory clearance; and advertising laws. Ren Jun also advises on a wide range of issues relating to the healthcare industries. These include regulatory compliance in respect of drugs, medical devices, clinical trials, health supplements and cosmetics; product liability and recall; and anti-corruption. Ren Jun is currently a member of the Firm's Asia Pacific Healthcare ASEAN Economic Community; Product Liability and Regulatory Sub-Committees.