25 January 2013
A 27-year-old woman was arrested today (January 25) in a joint operation by the Department of Health (DH) and the Police at Aberdeen for illegal sale of one box of SM capsules, a slimming product with undeclared and banned drug substances.
During the DH's surveillance programme, a sample of the product concerned was obtained from an Internet auction site for analysis. Analytical results from the Government Laboratory revealed that the slimming product contains sibutramine and phenolphthalein. A joint operation by the DH and the Police was conducted today and the seller was arrested for illegal sale of a Part I poison and an unregistered pharmaceutical product.
Sibutramine is a Part I poison and was once a Western medicine used as an appetite suppressant. Since November 2010, products containing sibutramine have been banned by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board because of increased cardiovascular risk. Phenolphthalein was used previously to treat constipation, but has been banned for its cancer-causing effect.
The DH's investigation is continuing.
According to the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap 138), all pharmaceutical products must be registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Hong Kong before they can be sold legally in the market. Part I poisons should be sold at pharmacies under the supervision of registered pharmacists. Illegal sale of unregistered pharmaceutical products and illegal sale of Part I poisons are criminal offences. The maximum penalty for each offence is a fine of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment.
A DH spokesperson strongly urged members of the public not to buy products of unknown or doubtful composition, or consume products from unknown sources. All registered pharmaceutical products should carry a Hong Kong registration number on the package in the format of "HK-XXXXX". Unregistered pharmaceutical products have not been evaluated by the Board and their safety, quality and efficacy may not be guaranteed.
"People who have purchased the above product should stop using it immediately and consult health-care professionals if they are in doubt or feeling unwell after using the product concerned. They can submit the product to the Drug Office of the DH at Room 1856, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, during office hours for disposal," the spokesman said.
"Weight control should be achieved through a balanced diet and appropriate exercise. The public should consult health-care professionals before using any medication for weight control," the spokesman said.