Media advised to be cautious when promoting herbal products

The media has been called to exercise caution when promoting herbal products in order to protect public health and safety.

A forum on “Media and Herbal Medicine Advertising”, organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in Accra on Thursday, revealed that advertising played a significant role in influencing the public to use herbal medicines, even those not approved by the regulatory bodies like the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA).

A documented investigation by the Fourth Estate, a project by the MFWA, revealed that some media outlets advertised herbal medicines without proper investigations to find out whether it had been approved by the FDA and its safety for human consumption.

Out of the eight leading media houses in four regions approached to promote a fictitious product (Macofa Herbal Mixture), only two, Accra-based Peace FM and Ghanaian Times, insisted on its authenticity by demanding FDA approval before advertising. The rest went ahead with the advertisements by endorsing the product on their various mediums without verifying its efficacy, once the advertisement fee was paid.

Reacting to the exposé, the Deputy Minister of Health, Alhaji Mahama Asei Seini, emphasized the need for collaboration among stakeholders to standardize the sector, given that 80% of development countries, including Ghana now relies on herbal medicines in treating various illnesses, according to reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The documentary he said did not only affirm the already existing suspicions on how poorly functioned the regulatory systems are, not only in the herbal space, but also the entire health sector and the advertising industry.

“This shows the severity of the problem we have on our hands and calls for a swifter regulatory in the herbal medicine industry” he added.

He stressed the media’s responsibility in advertising health products and urged them not to abuse their influence for promoting products and services, especially when it comes to health related products.

“The government is committed to ensuring that all medicines, including herbal, sold in Ghana are safe, and effective for use by the public,” adding that “it also includes ensuring that commercials run for these products reflects its use and conform to all laid down safety protocols” He explained.

“The government through the Ministry of Health have taken a keen interest in this documentary, and will launch and immediate investigations into key revelations in the documentary” Alhaji Mahama said.

The Traditional Medicines Practice Council, responsible for registering and endorsing traditional medicine practitioners, was also implicated for not following due process in the licensing of the fake manufacturing company.

Samuel Asante-Boateng, Director of Drugs and Herbal Medicine Regulation at the FDA, emphasized the importance of FDA permits before advertising herbal products.

“Even when your product has been registered, you cannot advertise a product until the advert has been approved by the FDA.” He said.

He explained the rigorous testing process products undergo before receiving FDA approval.

Dr. Asante-Boateng therefore advised anyone approached with a herbal medication for advertising to insist on an FDA permit to maintain industry standards.


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