Fairness creams are again under scrutiny with the Maharashtra Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issuing notices to Chandigarh-based pharmaceutical company Torque Pharma over the latter’s attempts to position its steroid-based fairness creams as over-the-counter products. Steroid-based drugs or creams have to be prescribed by a doctor, which means these cannot be advertised at all. Torque, best known for its Torex cough syrup - now endorsed by singer Kailesh Kher (and earlier by the late ghazal singer Jagjit Singh) - has been heavily advertising one such cream, U-B Fair for Men.
This caused regulatory action, sources said. U-B's brand ambassador was actor Pulkit Samrat, who would regularly feature in full-page ads. While Torque appears to have crossed the line, incidents such as these put the Rs 3,000-crore fairness cream category under a cloud, sources said. Last year, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) had issued guidelines on the marketing of fairness and lightening creams, indicating specifically what were the do’s and don'ts in this regard. According to Shweta Purandare, secretary-general, ASCI, the current guidelines don’t allow promotion of unfair practices. “If a product is promoted for cosmetic use when it is not permitted to do so, that is a clear violation of our guidelines.” Purandare said ASCI, too, received a complaint on Torque Pharma. A detailed mail to Torque Pharma on the matter elicited no response till the time of going to press. According to Harshdeep Kamble, commissioner of the Maharashtra FDA, there could be further action on errant fairness cream manufacturers. “We are currently collecting information on other fairness creams that contain s steroids and could be violating the law much like Torque Pharma. Further course of action will be taken based on the information we receive.”