Materia Medica Malaysiana

December 16, 2007

Keeping an eye on ‘unhealthy’ advertisements

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:07 am

NST: PETALING JAYA: Advertising the “benefits” of their products is not necessarily a wise thing for some manufacturers of pharmaceutical, traditional and cosmetic products.
Especially not when you have hawk-eyed officials of the Health Ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Division scrutinising every claim their advertisements make.
And it is these claims which have landed at least 36 drug manufacturers in hot soup with the Drug Control Authority (DCA) over the last seven years.
These manufacturers, caught for “enhancing” their products with scheduled poisons and other adulterants, had their licences revoked.
This year, the licences of at least six drug manufacturers were withdrawn while the registration of 19 products was cancelled, said Pharmaceutical Services Division senior deputy director Eisah Abdul Rahman.
“We look at all their advertisements, including those on brochures and flyers, with a fine tooth comb and any suspicious claims are investigated.
“Sometimes we even investigate based on the name of the product.”
The bulk of the pharmaceuticals found to have been adulterated with scheduled poisons are lifestyle drugs for slimming, drugs for increasing the libido and cosmetics such as skin whitening creams.
The scheduled poisons in these drugs include Sibutramine (used in slimming pills) which can lead to adverse cardiovascular effects such as palpitation and high blood pressure.
Eisah said in most cases, the manufacturers knowingly adulterate the products after submitting “clean” samples to get the ministry’s approval.
In some cases though, the manufacturers are quite “innocent” in that they were unaware that the raw ingredient they imported to manufacture their product was already adulterated at source.
There are also those who only send in certain “coded” batches for sampling, knowing that these were free of adulterants.
“But we are able to trace the culprits either through our routine sampling from the market, through their advertisements and through complaints from consumers.”
Eisah said some of these drugs, especially health supplements, were sold through exclusive membership.
There were also cases where some manufacturers tried to outwit the authorities by selling their products in a package.
For example, they would combine a registered health supplement with a beverage where a scheduled poison was an active ingredient.
Examples include beverages to control body weight or 3-in-1 beverages which claim to have traditional herbs such as Tongkat Ali and Ginseng when they actually contain scheduled poisons such as sildenafil.
“They do this knowing that we can only act on the health supplement and not a food product such as a beverage which comes under the purview of the Food Safety Division of the ministry.
“But we are working around this problem,” she said.
Until August, the division had seized RM28 million in unregistered and adulterated drugs.
The largest consignment was the seizure of some 1.5 million fake Viagra pills from India with a street value of RM15,446,293.
Eisah said the bulk of the drugs, estimated at some RM25.8 million, were seized during raids on manufacturing outlets while almost RM2 million worth were seized at entry points before they could be smuggled into the country.
The public can verify the authenticity of pharmaceutical products through the DCA’s website at http://www.bpfk.gov.my

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