Last updateFri, 27 Nov 2020 10am

New law protects against false medical claims

Purifimax promises to wash the liver, improve digestion, balance metabolism, clean toxins in the blood and facilitate weight loss. It comes in a reassuring white and blue bottle of 60 pills for about 500 pesos. But starting February 17, Purifimax and other miracle products will no longer be able to make such claims in their marketing. According to a new law signed by President Felipe Calderon, the Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) will have the power to shut down any advertising campaign for products making such sensational claims.

Various herbal and alternative medicine snake oils dot the healthcare landscape in almost every country. Some people seek them when traditional medicine fails, but in Mexico, some use them as a primary way to manage ailments. This, according to COFEPRIS director Mikel Arriola, represents a risk to public health.

As per the new law, in order for products to advertise medical effects, they must first properly register with COFEPRIS—a process that requires them to submit scientific proof of those effects.

The law increases fines up to 1,040,000 pesos for makers or advertisers of products that put the health of the public at risk.

It won’t be enough to simply append a legal advisory to the end of medical claims. Such evasive measures won’t deter COFEPRIS from taking action against the companies involved.

This is bad news for Skinny Shot, a product that promises to help people lose one to two pounds per day for forty days using injections of hCG. While their website only uses the abbreviated form, hCG medically stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, a substance specifically prohibited for sale as a weight loss product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Optimal Health Laboratories, the Texas-based company that sells Skinny Shot, denied any knowledge of the new Mexican law and further denied selling their product in Mexico, although it (or another product with the same name and marketing) can easily be found on Mexican direct order sites like tv-wow.com. Further, COFEPRIS specifically enumerates Skinny Shot on a list of offending miracle products.

Some stores have already taken notice of the new law. Shopping TV, a small business tucked into a stumpy hallway in Plaza Arboledas, fills most of its shelves with plastic toys and infomercial castoffs. Among those were a few products on that same COFEPRIS list as Skinny Shot. But Shopping TV has already pulled these miracle products from its shelves in anticipation of the law.

Noami Gonzales, Shopping TV salesperson summed up the economics of the decision. “For 600 pesos [the retail value of most of these products], I’m going to lose more if I am closed or I am fined. No, I prefer not to sell them.”

Miracle products made up only a part of Shopping TV’s sales. For businesses that rely heavily on these quack pharmaceuticals, the financial hit could be more severe.
The secretary of health, Salomon Chertorivski Woldenberg, emphasized that the new law reflects a consensus among the government, society, and industry for the protection of health.

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