The Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) has announced a planned crackdown on importers of counterfeit cosmetics that have infiltrated the Liberian market.
LMHRA Executive Director, David Sumo, said the Liberian market is now the latest focal point for the importation of fake cosmetics and if immediate actions are not taken the situation could overwhelm the country.
This intervention is meant to support fair trade and genuine entrepreneurs. It will also promote the local cosmetics businesses that are struggling to make profits because the market is flooded with cheap imported cosmetics, Sumo said at a stakeholders meeting in Monrovia.
The meeting was held on the theme: “LMHRA’s Quality Assurance Plan for Medicines and Health Products; the benefits for both business institutions and consumers, and the combat of substandard medicines and health products on our market.”
Sumo said tough action will be taken against dealers in fake and substandard cosmetics in the country. “We need to prosecute these people because they are endangering the lives of the Liberian public.
A number of products including colorants, preservatives, poisonous and mutation inducing substances, reproductive toxicants, skin lighteners and moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye and facial makeup, shampoos, permanent waves, hair colors, toothpastes and deodorants, are being targeted.
According to Sumo “no person shall manufacture, import, store, exhibit, sell or dispense cosmetics unless they meet requirements under this law.”
Relating to the regulation and inspection of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics mean “any substances applied on the human body in order to enhance, change and impart a pleasant smell on the human body.”
Attending the meeting were several owners of the country’s major pharmaceutical outlets as well as some importers.
Many of the participants noted that tightening laws governing the sector promotes public health and supports genuine entrepreneurs.
“It is important because it will help boost quality along value chain and make the sector more attractive to investors. However, these actions should also target counterfeit medicinal products.
The participants, though some are not importers of cosmetics, said the pending action is a laudable one because it would tighten restrictions regarding the importation, distribution and trade of cosmetics in the country.
Some of the participants also said the crackdown on counterfeits will help promote fair trade and competition among local industries.
Those that are in the business of counterfeit cosmetics are hurting the world, even to the detriment of the lives of millions of people.
For example, in Europe counterfeit generates 4.7 billion euros of direct losses annually for the European cosmetics industry, a UK based beauty website, HIOM, said.
This amount represents 7.8% of total sales in the European Union’s cosmetics and personal care industry resulting in 50,000 job losses. Taking into account the effect on suppliers, revenue losses are up to 9.5 billion euros resulting in 80,000 jobs losses.
In addition to direct revenue losses for brands, counterfeiters are putting consumers’ health at risk and generate major tax revenue losses (1.7 billion euros.), the website said.
There has been a lot of public interest in herbal products in recent years with many manufacturers moving to tap the opportunities this market segment presents. However, investors struggle to break even because of counterfeits that have flooded the local market.
LMHRA said the task at hand to differentiate between the real and the fake products is huge and even difficult for those in the field let alone mere consumers.
He admonished participants to be sincere in their dealerships as their insincerity might be hurting another person.
“Cosmetics must be free of toxic substances and should meet quality standards applicable in the country. Importers of cosmetics and dealers must therefore comply with guidelines to protect the public,” Sumo said. He added that his organization has already engaged security sector, especially the LNP, DEA and BIN, to help implement the actions.
“For purposes of public health interest, any cosmetic ingredient that does not meet quality requirements is prohibited,” he said.
“Therefore, no person shall manufacture, import, store, exhibit, sell or dispense cosmetics unless they meet requirements under the law,” he added. The manufacture, preparation, preservation or storage of these products under unsanitary conditions will not be allowed, warned Sumo.
Some cosmetics that use ingredients that have been found to be harmful include Peau Claire and Fair and White, which contain 1.9 hydroquinone, Lait de beaute 72 heures containing polyethylene glycol, and Penetration enhancer used in many products, and are often contaminated with 1.4-dioxane and ethylene oxide, both known carcinogens.
Since the establishment of the LMHRA, Director Sumo has been combating the issue of counterfeit drugs on the Liberian market. He continually warns that the country is experiencing the proliferation of fake medicines on the market, posting serious threats to the health of Liberians.
He blamed the situation on dishonest importers and the country’s porous borders—that are not adequately manned by security officials, some of whom, at times, compromise the interest of the country.
Sumo says the issue of drugs importation was not only done by owners of private pharmacies, but institutions of government responsible for health-related matters. Some of these are in the habit of purchasing fake drugs through the procurement process introduced by the government.
Mr. Sumo indicated that medicines ordered by the government should be thoroughly checked before being exposed to the market. He urged Liberians to be very careful about purchasing medicines, especially drugs that are sold across the counters.