An inter-agency task force has been set up by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to clamp down on activities of media houses and companies advertising unlicensed food and drugs in both traditional and social media.
The agency, with representatives from the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the Ghana Police Service, National Security, the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Judiciary, has been mandated to monitor, arrest and prosecute media houses and companies found to be advertising products in contravention of the Public Health Act.
Representatives of the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), Ministries of Trade and Food and Agriculture who are also on the committee, would ensure that adequate legal sanctions are applied to persons and organisations found to be in breach of the law.
The Public Health Act prohibits advertisements on medicines for diseases such as diabetes, gonorrhoea, hypertension, prostrate diseases, sexual impotence, fibroid, paralysis, diseases connected to human reproductive functions and HIV/AIDS.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the FDA, Mr Hudu Mogtari, who made this known in Accra yesterday, said, “Drugs for these conditions can only be advertised in medical journals as claims in the traditional media are often not true and in some cases exaggerated to boost sales.”
He told the Daily Graphic that by the law one could also not advertise alcoholic beverages as aphrodisiacs that could treat sexual impotence.
He said the trend of radio and television advertising had led to a compromise on drug safety that ought to be clamped down.
Mr Mogtari recalled that last year, the FDA wrote to all media houses across the country and notified them to desist from advertising unlicensed food and drugs.
“Beyond the formal notification to media houses to halt advertising activities, we have held sensitisation programmes for media managers to educate them on the Public Health Act and why drugs cannot be advertised openly on radio and television networks,” Mr Mogtari said.
He expressed worry that while the FDA approved alcoholic beverages as registered products, they were given live mentions as aphrodisiacs in both television and radio advertisements, even when such advertisements were not approved by the FDA.
Mr Mogtari said what was even more worrying was that when the FDA went after presenters who advertised banned products, the public accused the authority of collapsing businesses.
He noted that whereas people argued that the mention of products on air was a major revenue source for media houses, they tended not to be concerned about the implications the exaggeration of those products could have on the consuming public.
“If you have a product that needs to be advertised publicly, the scripts and audio recordings must be submitted for approval by the FDA,” he said.
“Our mandate is to protect public health and safety and if we fail to crack the whip, the same members of the public would criticise our very existence,” Mr Mogtari said.