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Products found to contain undeclared medicines

Woman arrested for suspected illegal sale of slimming product with undeclared banned drug ingredients (with photo)
A woman aged 24 was arrested today (September 4) in a joint operation by the Department of Health (DH) and the Police for suspected illegal sale of a slimming product (no English name, see photo) which is suspected to contain undeclared banned drug ingredients.

Upon the investigation of a public complaint, it was found that a local Internet seller has been offering for sale the above slimming product. A sample of the product was purchased for analysis and test results of the Government Laboratory showed that the product contained the banned drug ingredients sibutramine and phenolphthalein. During today's operation, the Police arrested the seller for suspected illegal sale of an unregistered pharmaceutical product and a Part I poison.

The DH's investigation is ongoing.

Sibutramine is a Part I poison once used as an appetite suppressant. Since November 2010, products containing sibutramine have been banned because of increased cardiovascular risk. Phenolphthalein was once used to treat constipation, but has been banned in Hong Kong for its cancer-causing effect.

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 legally sold in the market. Part I poisons can only be sold in a pharmacy under the supervision of a registered pharmacist. Illegal sale of Part I poisons and unregistered pharmaceutical products are criminal offences. The maximum penalty for each offence is a fine of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment.

A spokesman for the DH strongly urged members of the public not to buy products of unknown or doubtful composition, or to 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 are not guaranteed.

"Weight control should be achieved through a balanced diet and appropriate exercise. The public should consult healthcare professionals before using any medication for weight control," the spokesman advised.

Members of the public who have purchased the above product should stop consuming it immediately. They should consult healthcare professionals for advice if they feel unwell or in doubt after consuming the product. They may submit the product to the DH's Drug Office at Room 1856, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, during office hours for disposal.

Ends/Friday, September 4, 2015
Issued at HKT 19:18