SINGAPORE: After trying out a weight loss product and finding it effective, a woman began importing bottles of the pills from Malaysia and selling them online to customers in Singapore via Qoo10, Shopee and Instagram.
However, the Clinic K pills contained sibutramine, a substance banned in Singapore since 2010 because of an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
After a customer reported to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) about developing a rapid heartbeat, breathlessness and dizziness after taking the pills for two days, the seller was nabbed.
Maithili Vijayakumar, 37, was fined S$6,000 by a court on Thursday (May 6) for one charge of possessing for sale 13 bottles of capsules that contained sibutramine, a poison listed under the Poisons Act.
If she does not pay the fine, she will have to serve three weeks' jail in default.
The court heard that Maithili ordered the pills in January 2020 for her own consumption. They were marketed to be of "safe medical grade" and as the "No. 1 clinical weight-loss formula in Korea", containing natural ingredients like amino acids and green tea extract.
As Maithili found the pills effective, she began ordering more from her Malaysian supplier in Ipoh for her online account, Misty Beauty Bar, which operated on Qoo10, Shopee and Instagram.
She bought more than 200 bottles for S$55 per bottle and marked up the prices to either S$99 or S$110 for each and sold most of them over two-and-a-half months. Maithili earned between S$8,000 and S$10,000 in profits.
One of her customers bought a bottle for S$110 from Qoo10 in May 2020 and developed a rapid heartbeat, dizziness and other symptoms. Even after halving the dose and later discontinuing the consumption of the pills, the symptoms persisted and the woman made a report to the HSA.
The authority analysed the pills and found high levels of sibutramine in them.
The substance was previously a prescription-only medicine for weight loss, and was banned in Singapore since 2010 because of the increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. The level of sibutramine found in the product was double the maximum daily dose previously allowed.
The marketing materials included a "warning" of potential effects such as nausea, dizziness, restlessness and rapid heartbeat due to the product's "caffeine content", but the effects are in fact associated with sibutramine.
When the HSA inspected Maithili's home in June 2020, they found 13 bottles of Clinic K with 780 capsules in total and seized them.
The prosecutor called for a fine of S$7,000, saying that Maithili had leveraged three online platforms with a wide pool of customers, and that adverse effects were reported in one customer.
Maithili's defence lawyer urged for a fine less than S$7,000, saying his client is remorseful and had stopped selling the pills when notified by the HSA.
She could have been jailed up to two years and fined up to S$10,000 for contravening the Poisons Act.