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Press Release

Public urged not to consume unlabelled slimming products from the Internet

18 Oct 2010

The Department of Health (DH) today (October 18) again appealed members of the public not to buy or consume unlabelled slimming products from the Internet as they may contain undeclared western medicines dangerous to health.

The appeal followed arrest of a 22-year-old woman in a DH’s joint operation with the Police today for suspected illegal sale of pharmaceutical products. A number of suspected unregistered pharmaceutical products were also seized from the woman at the time of her arrest. Laboratory tests on the products would be conducted later.

Acting on intelligence on suspected Internet sale of slimming drugs allegedly obtained from a hospital in Thailand, DH obtained the relevant slimming products through the Internet and sent them to Government Laboratory for analysis.

Test results showed that two slimming drugs were found to contain western medicines. In one of the slimming drugs, a prescription medicine, sibutramine, was found while the other contains an over-the-counter laxative called bisacodyl.

A spokesman for DH said sibutramine is a western medicine used as an appetite suppressant. Its side effects include increased blood pressure and heart rate, psychosis and possibly convulsion. It should not be taken by people with heart problems.

Bisacodyl, a western drug ingredient for treating constipation, is used as a stimulant laxative. It can cause discomfort such as abdominal pain and cramps. Prolonged use or overdosing on it can lead to excessive loss of water and electrolytes.

Any product containing sibutramine or bisacodyl must be registered before it can be sold in Hong Kong. Furthermore, sibutramine must be sold only on doctor's prescription and dispensed under the supervision of registered pharmacist.

DH's investigation continues. The seller's webpage of the captioned products was removed from the internet immediately. DH monitors the Internet for any illegal sale of drugs and provides follow-up actions promptly.

The spokesman said: "Sale of unregistered pharmaceutical products is an offence under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance. The maximum penalty is a fine of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment."

The spokesman exhorted members of the public not to sell products of unknown or doubtful composition.

Members of the public who have purchased the products described above should stop using them immediately.

They should consult a doctor if they feel unwell after taking the product. They should destroy and dispose of the products or submit them to the department's Pharmaceutical Service at 3/F, Public Health Laboratory Centre, 382 Nam Cheong Street, Kowloon, during office hours.

"Weight control should be achieved through good diet and appropriate exercise. Members of the public should consult healthcare professionals before using any medication for weight control," the spokesman said.

18 October 2010