Limiting Advertising of Miracle Products

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 16:20

“Miracle products,” promising everything from weight loss and reversing aging to curing cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and many other diseases, lack the clinical studies necessary to support their claims. They come in many forms, including creams, medications, supplements, infusions, and even exercise equipment and are usually accompanied by media campaigns on radio, television, and magazines. Miracle products are not subject to any type of tests nor have they been examined by Mexican regulatory authorities. Moreover, their manufacturing process has not been inspected with the same scrutiny applied to pharmaceuticals and some may contain toxic ingredients.

Every medication must complete rigorous clinical trials so that its safety and efficiency can be approved by COFEPRIS before reaching the market. OTC medications, which do not need a prescription, are the only products which can be advertised. Before 2012, due to loopholes in Mexican legislation, these products were allowed to be registered as nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, or beauty products, all of which are subject to fewer regulations than medicines.

Since they promote their ability to cure numerous diseases at an affordable price, they became extremely popular among the general population, risking exposure to undocumented side effects and potential toxicity. Since these products are not prescribed by physicians they base their publicity entirely on television, radio, magazines, and newspapers, and are generally aimed at middle aged, middle class individuals looking for fast solutions for complex problems. On television they are usually endorsed by celebrities to incite the public to buy immediately using limited time offers.

In 2012, the General Health Law Regulation on Advertisement (RLGSMP) was modified to regulate the publicity of OTC products and eliminate products with unverifiable claims. These regulations obliged TV companies to request sanitary registration before selling advertising spaces and to notify the Ministry of Health on every sold spot. It also allows the Ministry of Health to force media to suspend the advertisement of any product violating these regulations within 24 hours and increases fines from 60% to 400% for manufacturers, distributors, and traders. Fines can now reach up to 16,000 days of minimum wage.

COFEPRIS is responsible for regulating the market and enforcing this law and after the reform was implemented, the council created a mechanism called Copy Advice, which is a tool to pre-analyze advertising projects before submission to COFEPRIS.

The organization has also made several agreements with CANIPEC and PROFECO to enforce this legislation and in 2011 it eliminated adverts from 60 brands. According to COFEPRIS, from 2011 to 2015 a total of 2.5 million units of miracle products were banned.

Despite the changes in regulations to limit their advertisement, the general public continues consuming these products. In order to solve this problem, stronger enforcement of regulations may be necessary alongside educating the general public on the dangers that miracle products present.