SINGAPORE: A woman now suffers from severe heart failure after she consumed a weight loss product that contains an undeclared banned substance, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said on Monday (Jun 3).
The product, marketed as BB Body, is one of four products that have caused "serious adverse reactions" in consumers, and members of the public are advised not to purchase or consume the products, HSA said.
The other affected products are Bello Smaze and Choco Fit which were both also marketed as weight loss products, as well as Seahorse Chop Du Zhong Ba Ji Wan which contains a potent steroid.
“The products were tested by HSA to contain undeclared potent medicinal ingredients, including a banned substance for weight loss and a potent steroid,” HSA said.
A woman in her 50s had purchased BB Body from an online seller based in Malaysia after coming across an Instagram post of the product. After consuming it for about three months, she developed an extremely fast heart rate, also known as ventricular tachycardia, which led to a loss of consciousness that required resuscitation to save her life.
The woman now suffers from severe heart failure and is implanted with a defibrillator to regulate her heart rhythm. She also requires long-term heart failure medication, said HSA.
A woman in her 20s developed palpitations and insomnia, and subsequently had suicidal thoughts, after taking Bello Smaze for four days.
She had purchased the product from a local seller to lose weight. The woman said she was recommended the product by a friend, who also experienced palpitations and insomnia.
Separately, another woman in her 30s also experienced palpitations after consuming Choco Fit for two days.
“The adverse reactions experienced by these consumers were consistent with the effects from sibutramine, which was found in the three products. Sibutramine was previously a prescription drug but was banned by HSA in 2010 due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as other serious adverse effects,” the authority said.
All three products were marketed on various e-commerce and social media platforms including Instagram and Facebook. They were also marketed as having “no side effects” or as being able to deliver fast weight loss within days.
HSA said that it has directed the administrators of the local online platforms to remove the affected product listings.
Associate Professor Chan Cheng Leng, group director of HSA's Health Products Regulation Group, advised consumers to not fall for claim of quick weight loss when purchasing health products, whether they are sold online or in shops.
"Based on HSA’s enforcement operations, many of the weight loss products sold on e-commerce platforms without an established retail presence were found to contain the banned substance, sibutramine. Sibutramine can cause serious adverse effects such as mood disturbances, hallucinations, heart attacks and strokes."
PRODUCT CONTAINED POTENT STEROID
In a separate case, a man in his 40s suffered from Cushing’s syndrome after he consumed a product marketed as Seahorse Chop Du Zhong Ba Ji Wan. He had bought the product from a medical hall in Johor Bahru and was taking it for more than two months to relieve his arthritis.
His condition, characterised by “moon” face, thin limbs, thinning of the skin and easy bruising was caused by dexamethasone, a potent steroid that was fraudulently added into the product. Tests by HSA also found that the product contained chlorpheniramine, an antihistamine for allergic reactions.
HSA said that the blister strips found in one box carried a different product name, which was another sign that Seahorse Chop Du Zhong Ba Ji Wan was an illegal product.
The blister strips found in one box was labelled as “100% Natural Pure Herbal * Acti Fast”. Tests conducted on the product showed that it contained an additional adulterant called frusemide, which is a potent medicine for removing excess water in the body.
“These findings are characteristic of illegal products which are manufactured without any quality control,” HSA said.
HSA advised all consumers to immediately stop taking the affected products and consult a doctor if they feel unwell or are concerned about their health.
“As Seahorse Chop Du Zhong Ba Ji Wan contains a potent steroid, consumers who have taken this product should see a doctor as soon as possible.
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"Discontinuation of steroids without proper medical supervision can cause serious withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, confusion and low blood pressure, especially when the product has been taken for more than a few weeks."
HSA added that consumers should be wary of health products that promise or deliver “quick and miraculous” effects, or carry exaggerated claims. Consumers should also avoid purchasing health products from unfamiliar sources overseas, and exercise caution when buying such products online.
All sellers and suppliers must stop selling the four affected products immediately. Those found guilty of supplying illegal health products face up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to S$100,000.