India- Maha FDA to Test Leading Cosmetic Brands to Probe Marketing of Steroid-Laden Creams

« Against the backdrop of illegal sale of steroid-laden creams by Himachal Pradesh based manufacturer Torque Pharma for skin therapy, the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently testing and examining leading cosmetic brands in its Mumbai lab to also explore the possibility of usage of steroids in cosmetic products and creams without mentioning in the labels. The test reports are likely to come out in two weeks time.


The state regulator had recently directed the manufacturer Torque Pharma to withdraw its two products- UB Fair for men and No Scars cream for women- from the market. Says Maharashtra FDA commissioner Dr Harshdeep Kamble, « We are also trying to find out the possibility that cosmetic brands might be using steroids to manufacture the creams but have not been mentioning in the labels.

While the companies have been making claims of providing fair complexion, using steroids can lead and has led to skin disorders. »

The two products UB Fair for men and No Scars cream for women contain steroids like fluocinolon acetonid and mometasone along with skin bleaching agents.

Mometasone is a potent steroid that can cause acneiform eruption on the face, unwanted hair growth, rosacea (pustular lesions), perioral dermatitis (facial rash) and fixed redness. Other steroids like fluocinolone, hydroquinone and tretinoin are often prescribed for skin diseases like melasma or discoloration but long term usage can cause severe side effects.

The FDA had seized such steroid laden products from different locations in the state.

The Maharashtra FDA has also asked the Himachal Pradesh drug controller to take action against the company under the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Maharashtra FDA’s action against two Torque Pharma products, UB Fair for men and No Scars cream for women is based on the premise that products have been advertised as beauty treatments in contravention to the provisions of Schedule J of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Drugs and Magic Remedies Act.

Says an official associated with the development, “Steroid-laden drugs were being sold by Torque Pharma as over-the-counter product.

The drugs positioned as fairness creams through companies advertisements have misled the public with false claims on enhancing skin complexion and treatment, a practice that is prohibited, and the use of which could aggravate skin problems. The products are supposed to be advertised or positioned as a drug which requires a prescription for its use as indicated clinically and not to be sold to be used as a cosmetic under the provisions of the law of the land.”

The FDA’s action in this regard comes in response to a letter by the Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists – a national body of skin specialists to the FDA demanding that the administration keep a watch on irrational sale of steroid based skin creams.

In 2011, a study published Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology that was carried in 12 cities had revealed that 60 per cent of patients who had skin problems on their face were using self-prescribed steroid-based creams. The study named the condition as « topical steroid-dependent face » and recommended a more stringent implementation of existing laws to limit public access and advertising of potent topical corticosteroids. »

Article by Shardul Nautiyal, Mumbai

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