How Medicine Minus Kannada is Poison

The Times of India today reports shocking results from a study about the harmful effects of Vicks VapoRub, a "household remedy" for cold and cough used in 60% of Indian households as per the report. According to the study, Vicks VapoRub is closely linked with respiratory distress in children. Well, this doesn't come as news to the manufacturer Procter and Gamble India:
Reacting to the study, officials from Procter & Gamble, the company that makes Vicks VapoRub, told TOI from Mumbai that the product's label already advises against its use in children under two years of age. The label also clearly states that the ointment should not be used inside the nostrils but should be rubbed on the chest or throat.

However, many parents continue to use Vicks on their sick children below two years. Rubin said, "Most parents aren't aware of the risks as most people don't read the warning label."
Of course, Procter and Gamble has the warning on the label (we checked). But the problem is - the label is not in the language spoken by users in India! It's in English, a language in which only 7% of Indians are proficient.

While it's common sense that the label has to be printed in Kannada in Karnataka, P&G continues to print it in English - probably to save printing costs while riding on the prevalent inferiority complex about the Kannada language and the slavish glorification of the English language in India. We wouldn't be surprised if there are people who argue that this is proof that everybody should learn English in India - just like some argue that the tail should wag the dog.

However, as this whole episode shows, it's more prudent for P&G to print it in Kannada and avoid earning the bad name which it now has earned. Yeah, we understand that P&G is "clean" because there's no law which specifies that the label has to be printed in Kannada in Karnataka. But being legally clean and subjecting children to serious respiratory distress is not acceptable.

Also, is our government clean in not enacting a law that medicine labels must be printed in Kannada? What is the government doing, if it's not even enacting laws which are required for keeping its citizens alive and healthy? And yes, what are Kannadigas doing? Why aren't we persuading the government to enact such laws? Well, of course we understand that some people may not read the label even if it's in Kannada. But certainly the percentage of readers will increase, and certainly the government will then be clean, unlike now when 80% of Karnataka thinks that those labels are not for them to read. Take a poll of Kannadigas, ask if they know that the English label is meant to be read by them, and you'll know what we're talking about.

For the full news item, read: Vicks can cause respiratory distress in infants: Study


Consumer said...

I have heard that India is one of the very few countries in the world where medicine labels are not printed in local languages.

Another confused consumer said...

Why just medicines, look at the bottles which hold poisonous stuff such as phenols, musquito repellents.. None of them have any thing in Kannada. An there is another twist in the story. If you would have noticed some products have security tips in hindi, english and tamil!!!! what the hell? now have the industrialists started to think that all Indians know one of these three languages?

Clangorous said...

Not Suprising at all.. Our English/Hindi bootlicking so called intellectual cosmopolitan Kannadigas are the reason lots of other Kannadigas are suffering... How can any company assume that every one would be knowing their so called pseudo national and pseudo international language.. ?. If such issues had occured elsewhere... company would have faced major law suits.. but what to do this happens only in India where one Regional language is given an undue status over other languages.

sreesha g n said...

One thing is for sure. Your knowlege of marketing and packaging constraints is near zero.

Kishore said...

Enlightened sreesha g n ravare,

Tamma Gnaanada belakina kiranagalannu swalpa namma melu chelli.

packaging constraint? Is there constraint in printing the product details in a different language. Talking from the logical & financial perspective, getting nearer to the customer in all possible ways is directly proportional to the growth in the revenue and goodwill.

Well, one thing is for sure, that your knowledge of business is a big Zero.


Rudresha said...

Mr. Suresha GN,

Saying just "Your knowlege of marketing and packaging constraints is near zero" is not enough to prove that you know the things and there are the real problems.
Please let all the people know about the constraints what you think. If you don't reply, then it is evident that your knowledge about anything is zero...

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