More than 1 800 illegal skin whitening agents were confiscated in seven shops in a coordinated action in Brussels. The vast majority are skin whitening agents containing corticosteroids which are very popular among the African community. The substances can cause severe side effects such as infections, scarring or adrenal gland insufficiency.
On February 6, 2020, the Special Investigation Unit of the FAMHP performed controls in eight shops in Anderlecht. A total of 1 827 illegal medicines were confiscated in seven shops. In approximately 65 % of the cases, these were skin whitening agents with corticosteroids.
Danger to public health
Skin whitening agents with corticosteroids may only be used under medical supervision because they may cause serious side effects. This can include thinning of the skin, sensitivity to light and scarring through to infections, allergic reactions and reduction of hormone production by the adrenal glands. There are also no guarantees regarding the safety, quality and efficacy of products from the illegal circuit.
The sellers can be prosecuted for the illegal import of medicines, the sale of illegal medicines, the illegal possession of hormonal products and illegally acting as a dispensing pharmacy. This may be punished with fines of € 3 000 to € 100 000 (multiplied by a factor of 8) or custodial sentences from one month to five years.
The FAMHP remains vigilant and regularly performs targeted inspections.