The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has announced it will take action against media houses and influencers who advertise unapproved and fake medicines to protect public health and safety.
The decision follows The Fourth Estate’s investigation dubbed, Dangerous Endorsement: Expose’ on Herbal Medicine Advertising in Ghana ,which uncovered how eight media houses advertised a fake and unlicensed herbal product, Macofa Herbal Mixture.
The Head of Communications of the FDA, Mrs Rhoda Appiah, in an interview with the media said there are legal sanctions for media institutions that promote unapproved medicines.
“We are going to enforce or clamp down on media houses and social media influencers who go contrary to what the law requires,” she said.
Pursuant to section 129 of the Public Health Act 2012, Act 851, “A person who contravenes was liable to a fine not less than 7,500 penalty units and not less than 15 years and not more than 25 years imprisonment or both.”
Mrs Appiah said the FDA had engaged marketing executives of media houses to sensitise them but would continue to monitor the airwaves in order to ensure compliance with advertising regulations.
She urged media houses and influencers to comply with the rules and regulations of the FDA advertising regulations so as not to advertise fake products at the expense of public health.
The Head of Communications also reminded the public that the FDA does not approve unlicensed medicines as preventive drugs for disease, disorder, or abnormal physical state as enshrined in sections 100 and 144 of the Public Health Act, 2012, Act 851, and the FDA guidelines for advertisement of regulated products.
“(1) A person shall not advertise a food as a preventive or cure for a disease, disorder or an abnormal physical state,” it said.
Meanwhile, at a recent forum organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) to discuss the safety of herbal medicine advertising, the Deputy Health Minister, Mahama Asei Seinu, said that the ministry would launch an investigation to sanction the officials at the regulatory agency, the Traditional Medicine Practice Council (TMPC), who processed the licensure of the fake herbal mixture without due diligence.
“The government, and by extension, the Ministry of Health, has taken a keen interest in this documentary and will launch an immediate investigation into key revelations of the documentary, to ascertain which of the staff members at the TMPC failed to do due diligence in the licensing of this fake manufacturing company,” Mr Mahama said this on Thursday, September 14, 2023, at a public forum organised by the MFWA.
The Fourth Estate revealed how a health regulator, the TMPC certified a fake herbal medicine practitioner, Maxwell Akroma Duah, and licensed a non-existent herbal manufacturing company, Krodwoa Herbal Enterprise.
This is contrary to the TMPC ACT which requires that an applicant must have “adequate proficient practice in traditional medicine” and be endorsed by a district chairman of a recognised traditional medicine practitioners association or a district co-ordinating director before being certified as a traditional herbal doctor.
The non-existent company also produced a fake and unlicensed herbal product with three soft drinks, Malt, Coke, and Fanta, and named it the Macofa Herbal Mixture, coined from the first two letters of the three drinks.
The Fourth Estate sought advertising slots for the herbal mixture in the media without FDA approval. This was to test widespread concerns that some media outlets put the lives of consumers at risk by validating and advertising unlicensed herbal products and fake traditional medicine practitioners without the required due diligence.
The Macofa Herbal Mixture was advertised on eight prominent media platforms including radio, television, and newspaper portals across four regions in Ghana without any FDA approval.
There were calls following the advertisement of the herbal mixture with callers requesting to buy the drug which was advertised to heal all menstrual-related problems, impotence in men, infertility, and heightened libido in men and women.