The television drama The Bill was criticised as "grossly irresponsible" for making up a drug which supposedly alleviates multiple sclerosis (MS), causing "misled" viewers who suffer from the condition to inquire about its availability.
The MS Society received a number of calls about the fictional drug "Plavitron" after it featured in Wednesday night's episode, in which a young doctor who has the condition, Michael Drummond, is told by a colleague that a drug exists which is being tested but is not available in Britain.
A spokesman for the MS Society, Chris Bentley, added: "There are few effective treatments for MS and any mention of a new drug generates a lot of hope and excitement in people living with and affected by the condition. Our helpline has taken a number of calls from people wanting to know more about the made-up drug Plavitron and we've had to tell them it doesn't exist. It was grossly irresponsible of The Bill to make up a drug. People with MS have a tough enough time as it is without being misled over treatments."
About 85,000 people in Britain suffer from MS, which is a debilitating lifelong neurological condition.
The programme, about a fictional police station in east London, was mired in controversy in 1998 when the actor Kevin Lloyd died of alcohol abuse; and again this January when another cast member, Jeff Stewart, attempted suicide in his dressing room after his contract was cancelled.
ITV was unavailable for comment last night.