SINGAPORE: The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) seized about 4,500 units of illegal health products in an enforcement operation last week, it said on Tuesday (Oct 23).
The estimated street value of the products was about S$9,000. The majority of the seized medication were weight loss products, as were more than 90 per cent of the illegal sales postings detected during the enforcement week from Oct 9 to Oct 16.
Two people are assisting in investigations, HSA said in its press release.
The seized weight loss products were found to contain potent medicinal ingredients and sibutramine, a banned substance in Singapore.
Sibutramine was available in Singapore as a prescription-only weight-loss drug until 2010. It was withdrawn as users reported hallucinations, hearing of voices, palpitations and breathlessness. It also results in an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
“SMART DRUG” SEIZED
HSA also seized 500 modafinil tablets which were sent to Singapore from overseas sellers. Modafinil, sometimes called a "smart drug", is a prescription medicine used to treat narcolepsy or excessive sleepiness.
It has also been used as a "cognitive enhancer" by healthy people to improve their focus, reports say.
But HSA warned against self-medicating with the drug: "Modafinil carries a potential risk of dependency due to its stimulant effect on the brain."
The agency added: "It can also cause serious adverse effects such as heart problems, hypertension and psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, hallucinations or mania."
Earlier this year, a woman in her 30s was hospitalised for serious skin reactions after taking modafinil to improve her alertness, HSA said.
She developed Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a life-threatening skin condition with blistering and severe peeling of the skin. She also had multiple mouth ulcers and conjunctivitis, also known as red eyes.
Anyone convicted of supplying illegal health products can be imprisoned for up to three years and/or fined up to S$100,000.
HSA's operation was carried out in coordination with INTERPOL as part of Operation Pangea, an international Internet week of action targeting the illegal online sale of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines.
Coordinated police raids in 116 countries netted 500 tonnes of illicit pharmaceuticals available online, including fake cancer medications, counterfeit pain pills and illegal medical syringes.
The operation led to 859 arrests worldwide and the seizure of about US$14 million worth of potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals.
"Focusing on delivery services manipulated by organised criminal networks, the operation saw 3,671 weblinks closed down, including websites, social media pages, and online marketplaces," the organisation said.
It is the second significant drugs bust made by INTERPOL this month.