The Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority (“BoMRA”) has cautioned against the rise in the sale, promotion, and advertisement of personal lubricants and “vaginal care products”, warning they "may pose health risks to consumers". And health experts agree that people should be very careful with what they use.

"The vagina naturally produces secretions that are needed for its hygiene and lubrication which makes it to normally not require internal cleaning or extra lubrication. There are also microorganisms that are naturally found the vagina that helps to maintain its pH," an obstetrician and gyenaecologist, Dr Ndiwo Baisana Memo says.

However, BoMRA notes with concern that, there are vaginal products advertised and sold by both the formal and informal sectors, yet not registered with them. Public Relations Officer at BoMRA, Israel Kgosidiile warns members of the public and Healthcare Practitioners to be advised that these products are regulated by BoMRA in line with the Medicines and Related Substances Act (“MRS Act”).

He emphasizes that, anyone who wishes to advertise or promote a medical product must submit advertising and promotional materials to the Authority for approval before use. "This includes social media advertisements and promotions.

The adverts for medical products shall not contain promises that have not been scientifically proven and shall not make reference to symptoms in a manner likely to mislead the public," Kgosidiile says emphasizing that,members of the public are advised to ensure that the medical products that they sell, or purchase are labelled in accordance with the provisions of the Medicines and Related Substances Regulations (“MRS Regulations”).

According to the MRS Regulations, labels should contain information that includes the product name, its manufacturer, its intended use, instructions for safe use, side effects and expiry date, Kgosidiile adds. Dr Memo however clarifies that even misuse of medically certified products could be a threat to one's life hence people should consult a doctor before using anything.

"Misuse of even medically certified products can be harmful since this can lead to complications such as infections, candida overgrowth, cervical mucus changes, abnormal uterine bleeding, gynaecological cancers, infertility, vaginal tissue weakness, hardening or erosion just to mention a few, " he says highlighting that, just like any medication, it is important for vaginal products or medications to be tested for safety, effectiveness and side effects before they can be used on human beings hence the need for registration of medications."

Whenever a medication is prescribed, the prescriber and the user have to be aware of benefits and possible side effects," reiteraites Dr Memo. Kgosidiile says that BoMRA therefore cautions members of the public that the use of unapproved medical products may pose serious unknown health risks, and they are on the lookout for any products that sells, contravening the provisions in the MRS Act, and its Regulations as this is an offence and liable to penalties.

The Authority is currently conducting investigations on the reported cases and will be taking the necessary enforcement actions,Kgosidiile says.