FDA ‘alarmed’ over surge in the use of bleaching pills …pregnant women said to be using them for ‘fair’ babies

The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has expressed worry over the increasing use of bleaching pills in the country, saying it has not approved any pill, tablet or cosmetic for skin-lightening purposes – and that it is an offence for anyone to use them.

“The use of these drugs has gone to an alarming stage; it is ignorance that is making people do so,” the FDA’s Head of Cosmetics and Household Chemicals, Mr. Emmanuel Nkrumah, said at a media sensitisation workshop on unapproved bleaching pills and products in Takoradi.

“Anything that you take orally should be food, tooth-paste and mouthwash, and not bleaching pills,” Emmanuel Nkrumah said.

“It is an offence to handle a bleaching tablet or pill; the FDA has not approved any tablet or pill for that purpose. So, if you possess it, it becomes an offence because it has not been registered.”

Skin-bleaching tablets and creams, he said, have negative effects on the body; including the fact that they can cause skin diseases, body-odour, cancer of the liver and skin cancer, while some papers have also suggested hypertension and diabetes.

“So, once any product of this category has not been approved by the FDA to be imported, manufactured for sale and distribution, then possessing and using it for that purpose becomes an offence as it is not in compliance with the Public Health Act.”

He alleged that some pregnant women were taking the bleaching pills with the view to giving birth to light-skinned babies, something that he said could be very dangerous to the foetus.

The FDA’s Western Regional Head, Mr. Abu Somalia, added that the situation is very alarming and that a lot of investigation is being carried out.

He said any drug taken should be prescribed by a physician, and that anything contrary could affect the individual’s health.

He encouraged the media to also educate the public on consequences of bleaching and its effect on the individual’s health.

Restrictions on alcohol-advertisement  

Speaking on alcohol, Head of Communications and Public Education at the FDA, James Lartey, explained that the rationale for enforcing the restricted time on airing advertisements of alcoholic beverages on radio and television is to protect children.

Continuous advertisement, he said, changes the minds of individuals on a particular product, and if measures are not put in place it may have negative effects on children.

Childcare, he pointed out, is the responsibility of both parents and state; but parents need to ensure the proper upbringing of children.

“The Public Health Act, 2012, Act 851, is the legal framework upon which the FDA’s mandate is predicated. Sections 114 (1) and (2) of the Act state that “A person shall not advertise a drug, herbal medicinal product, cosmetic, medicinal device or household chemical substance to the general public as a treatment, preventive or cure for a disease, disorder or an abnormal physical state, unless the advertisement has been approved by the Authority,” he said.

He added that since the FDA restricted advertisement of alcoholic beverages on January 1, 2018, media houses’ response and compliance have been very encouraging – although he urged those that have not complied with the directive to do so forthwith.

He also advised passengers on commercial vehicles to desist from patronising medicines which are sold in buses.

“You even do not know how these medicines are stored; you need to buy from licenced chemical shops, herbal shops as well as pharmacy shops,” he said.