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Prescribed creams found being passed as cosmetics in Uganda

By Michelle Yeomans , 05-Feb-2013
Last updated the 05-Feb-2013 at 12:28 GMT

Certain traders in Uganda have been found to be selling medicated creams solely intended to treat skin diseases and passing them off as skin whitening cosmetics to unsuspecting consumers.

Watchdog, ‘The Sunday Monitor’, reported that creams such as Diproson and Betasol developed solely for hospitals and licensed clinics, were currently being promoted by traders on the country's markets as cosmetics that can lighten dark skin.

According to Dr. Sam Opio, secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda; these drugs are anti-inflammatory and are supposed to be prescribed for skin rashes, itchiness or irritation and may contain other harmful ingredients that people should be aware of, including mercury and hydroquinone.

"The creams are only supposed to be used under prescription in a certain quantity and for certain duration and abuse of these drugs can cause the skin to crack, exposing one to several skin diseases and even cancer."

Illegal cosmetics

The news publication further highlighted that these creams were also found in cosmetic shops around in Kikuubo, Kampala, and also in some suburbs like Namuwongo.

As the products were also placed on the market relatively cheap, unsuspecting consumers with small budgets have had access to the products, so much so that Betasol was reported as being snapped off the shelves.

To make matters worse, shopkeepers have also been giving consumers instructions on how to use the creams, despite not being qualified and yet well aware of their bleaching aspect.

"One shopkeeper, without specifying the quantity, for instance, said a reasonable amount of liquid Diproson can be mixed with ordinary lotion to achieve a desired lightening effect."

Vast amounts of products uncovered...

According to the Uganda Revenue Authority Enforcement Performance report for July to December 2012, some 2,448 tubes of Diproson and Betasol creams have been intercepted in the past two years.

Leaflets of the two creams indicate that they are supposed to be used to treat Eczema, Psoriasis, Lichen simplex, contact dermatitis and other skin diseases.

A source at National Drug Authority says they, at times ambush these retailers in Kikuubo and impound the cosmetics but are still currently looking for their suppliers.

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