A stakeholder meeting held on Tuesday, 31st October, 2017, on the advertisement of Food and Drugs Authority’s (FDA) regulated products has called for the enforcement of the laws on advertisement by ensuring the prosecution of those who violate the provisions of the law.

The stakeholders present at the meeting were representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Medical Association, Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH), Pharmacy Council, Health Facility Regulatory Agency (HEFRA), the Ghana Police Service, Consumer Protection Agency (CPA), and the Advertisers Association of Ghana (AAG). Also present were representatives from the Ghana Journalist Association, (GJA), Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicines Practitioners Association (GHAFTRAM), Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Traditional and Alternative Medicine Directorate (TAMD) of the Ministry of Health and the Traditional Medicine Practice Council (TMPC) and discussed measures by which the problem of airing unapproved and prohibited advertisements could be dealt with.

The FDA has been battling with the challenge of the airing of unapproved, expired or prohibited advertisements.  Some of these challenges include the increasing incidence of media houses publishing or airing unapproved advertisements whose validity has elapsed; the unauthorized variation of approved adverts and Live Presenter Mentions (LPMs) where presenters make unsubstantiated claims and/or additional claims.

Other challenges were noted as unapproved advertisements at District Information Centres, airing or publishing prohibited advertisements in contravention of the Fifth Schedule of the Public Health Act, 2012, Act 851 and the peddling of medicines at market places and in vehicles.

The rest are advertising of alcoholic beverages as aphrodisiacs and as a preventive or cure for diseases; using well known personalities in advertising alcoholic beverages; siting alcoholic beverage bill boards within 200 meters of pre-school, 1st and 2nd cycle schools, children playground and any other facilities designed for use for children and advertising alcoholic beverages (radio and television) between the hours of 6:00 am to 8:00 pm.

The FDA as part of its mandate to protect public health and safety under the Public Health Act, 2012, Act 851, vets and approve all advertisements of regulated products.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Food and Drugs Authority, Mrs. Delese Darko, in welcoming participants numerated the efforts that the FDA has deployed in the past to avert the menace of airing unapproved and prohibited advertisements. They include organizing discussions with key stakeholders, holding workshops as well as sensitization programs for representatives and presenters of the various media houses across the country, the issuance of press releases, newspaper publication, notices and media interviews. The FDA has also sought the assistance of the Police to arrest media practitioners who violated the law on advertisement.

All the above notwithstanding, Mrs. Darko stated that it appears LPMs advertisements kept increasing and the diseases in the fifth schedule of the Public Health Act, 2012, Act 851 for which advertisement is prohibited were being advertised without recourse to the FDA.

Mrs. Martha Gyansa-Lutterodt, the Chief Pharmacist at the Ministry of Health, speaking at the meeting on behalf of the Hon. Minister of Health, noted with concern the inundation of the misleading and dangerous advertisements that pose serious threats to public health and safety.

She further mentioned that it was her believe that by the end of the discussions, a clear policy direction would be adopted to ensure that information given out to the public on products would be scientifically accurate.

Among other things, the meeting concluded that laws and regulations of advertisement should be enforced so that defaulters or violators are prosecuted in the courts of law. It was also agreed that a press statement that bans the airing of unapproved and prohibited advertisements be issued as well as the need for self-regulation.

Furthermore, the meeting agreed that the Attorney General Department is consulted to help facilitate the creation of a special court that would solely adjudicate on the FDA laws and regulations and a standing committee on advertisement be formed to continuously review the progress in advertising regulations. The meeting also stressed the need for intensified media monitoring and increased stakeholder collaboration.

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