Information sharing crucial to combating abuse of drugs- FDA

The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) says one of the surest ways to help stem the tide on substances that are currently being abuse by Ghanaians is through the use of informants.

According to the CEO of FDA, Delese Mini Darko, despite efforts and collaboration with security agencies and adaptation of best practices to help with the fight against abused of ban substances, another method is the use of informants, which she says is being used in the most advanced countries.

“Sometimes it takes informants to report issues. FDA wants more information from the public to assist in its work” she said at a press conference on the use of pills to lighten the skin in Accra.

The abuse of bleaching pills (glutathione), tramadol and codeine-containing cough syrups have become rife amongst Ghanaian youth and have found its way unto the Ghanaian markets, the FDA indicates.

Furthermore, the FDA has observed the emerging trend of use of creams, tablets, capsules, pills and injectables as skin lightening agents by consumers.

There are confirmed reports that some pregnant women are even using these products with the erroneous belief that it will lighten the skin of their unborn babies. After preliminary investigation, the FDA has noted that Glutathione is one such product that has found its way unto the Ghanaian market and currently being abused.

Glutathione is made up of three amino acids: Cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine, these are naturally produced by our bodies and found in almost every cell in the body.

It possesses antioxidant properties and plays a role in detoxification of drugs and xenobiotics, which are foreign substances that the body does not recognize, like pollutants, some food additives and cosmetics.

Glutathione is known to possess health benefits including raising energy levels, strengthening the immune system, fighting inflammation and aiding in cellular repair.

Currently, the FDA has registered some brands of Glutathione in accordance with Section 118 of the Public Health Act 2012, Act 851 as dietary supplements in minimal doses of 100-500mg per day for an adult.

As a food supplement, glutathione capsules should not be marketed as drugs or cosmetics. Therefore, offering is for sale with the claim that the use of glutathione can cure certain diseases are clearly in contravention of Section 113B of the Public Health Act,Act 851 and criminal in intent.

One of the side effects of Glutathione is the slowing down of the production of melanin, a protein manufactured by melanocytes in our skins that gives the skin its brown colour. As a result, there will be less melanin pigment, giving the skin a lighter colour.

While this side effect of Glutathione may be desirous for those seeking to bleach their skins, scientific information is not available on the safety of the chronic and long term use and effects of Glutathione as a skin bleaching agent.

The FDA’s intelligence and market surveillance has revealed that Glutathione containing products on sale on our markets for this purpose have dosages ranging between 1,500,000mcg- 2,000,000mcg (1500-2000mg) per tablet.

These high strength Glutathione containing products are brought into the country illegally and are being sold on the open market. Some of the brands found on the market include Gluta Prime, Phyto Collagen, King of Whitening, Guta White and Ivory Capsules Skin Enhancement Formula.

The FDA also cautioned the general public, especially pregnant women and lactating mothers that the safety of glutathione has not been established in pregnancy and breastfeeding. The use of Glutathione and at the current dosage found on our markets may likely cause serious health problems for them and their babies.

The FDA has intensified monitoring of border posts and market surveillance across the country and will like to caution that any person or persons found offering them for sale or distribution will face the necessary regulatory sanctions and the full rigors of the law.

The CEO also stated that they have embarked on a number of swoops nationwide and seized these products and a number of sellers have been arrested.

Already, the FDA in the interest of the public health and safety and pursuant to section 116 of Act 851 has proceeded to ban the importation and manufacture of codeine-based cough syrups by an Executive Instrument.

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