Department of Health cracks down on illegal sale of slimming product containing banned drug ingredients

Photo shows the slimming product concerned.

22nd September 2023 – (Hong Kong) In a recent operation, the Department of Health (DH) has taken action against the sale of a slimming product known as VSlimming Herbal. The product was found to contain undisclosed controlled drug ingredients, including a banned substance. During the operation, a 36-year-old man was arrested for suspected illegal sale and possession of Part 1 poisons, as well as an unregistered pharmaceutical product.

Acting on valuable intelligence, authorities purchased a sample of the suspected unregistered pharmaceutical product from a retail store in Sham Shui Po for analysis. Test results conducted by the Government Laboratory revealed the presence of sibutramine, N-desmethylsibutramine, and spironolactone in the oral capsules, all of which are classified as Part 1 poisons under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap. 138). The DH’s investigation into the matter is ongoing.

Sibutramine, once used as an appetite suppressant, has been banned in Hong Kong since November 2010 due to the increased cardiovascular risk associated with its use. N-desmethylsibutramine is a substance structurally similar to sibutramine, and spironolactone is a prescription drug used in the management of heart failure, typically under the supervision of a doctor. Side effects of spironolactone include headaches, gastrointestinal disturbance, hyponatremia (abnormally low blood sodium levels), and hyperkalemia (elevated blood potassium levels).

Under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, all pharmaceutical products must be registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Hong Kong before they can be legally sold in the market. The illegal sale or possession of unregistered pharmaceutical products or Part 1 poisons constitutes a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of a fine of $100,000 and two years’ imprisonment for each offence.

A spokesman from the DH strongly advises the public against purchasing products of unknown or questionable composition, as well as consuming products from unknown sources. Individuals who have purchased the aforementioned product are urged to cease consumption immediately and consult healthcare professionals if they experience any adverse effects.

The spokesman further emphasized that weight control should be achieved through a balanced diet and appropriate exercise. It is crucial for the public to consult healthcare professionals before using any medication for weight control. Additional information on the topic can be found on the Drug Office of the DH’s website under “Health messages on overweight problem and slimming products” and “Slimming products with undeclared Western drug ingredients.”

For safe disposal of the product, the public can submit it to the Drug Office of the DH at Room 1801, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, during office hours.