Mexico enacted tough new rules Thursday to ban advertising of “miracle cures” for weight loss, sagging body parts and more serious illnesses like prostate ailments, chronic fatigue and even cancer.
Mexico has a long history of faith healers and home remedies, but the problem has come to a head in the last few years with a constant stream of ads on television for more “scientific” sounding creams that supposedly lift or enlarge breast and buttocks, magnets that help users lose weight, or pills and powders that cure gastric problems or diabetes.
In a country with levels of diabetes and obesity among the highest in the world, the combination of a sick population and fake cures can be deadly.
“This is a fraud,” said regulator Mikel Arriola, whose Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks is the agency in charge of regulating pharmaceuticals in Mexico. “It is a very serious public health problem, because people take these things instead of going to the doctor … they lose time in getting treatment or getting cured.”
Under the new rules, which take effect in 30 days, authorities can order media outlets to remove such advertising within 24 hours, and it steeply raises fines that can be levied on manufacturers and distributors that advertise the products.
The rules require that any product making a therapeutic claim will first have to prove it is listed in Mexico’s pharmaceutical register. The register requires scientific proof of effectiveness and a scientific description of how the medicine or medical apparatus achieves its claimed effects.