Photos of unregulated "health products" banned by HSA in a statement on Mon (3 Jun). Source: Health Sciences Authority

HSA warns public against buying or taking “weight loss” products following case involving severe heart failure

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has warned the public against buying or consuming four products marketed as ‘weight loss’ supplements, as they contain “undeclared potent medicinal ingredients” resulting in “serious adverse reactions in consumers”.

HSA added that the products included “a banned substance for weight loss and a potent steroid”, said HSA in a statement on Mon (3 Jun).

The four products are:

  • ‘BB Body’, which may result in an extremely fast heart rate, leading to loss in consciousness, and requiring resuscitation;
  • ‘Bello Smaze’, which may cause heart palpitations, insomnia and suicidal thoughts, as seen in the case of a woman in her 20s who had purchased the product directly from a local seller;
  • ‘Choco Fit’, which may result in heart palpitations similarly, as seen in the case of a woman in her 30s after two days of consuming the product; and
  • ‘Seahorse Chop Du Zhong Ba Ji Wan’, which may result in Cushing’s syndrome, as seen in the case of a man in his 40s who had purchased the product from a medical hall in Johor Bahru and took it for more than two months to relieve his arthritis.

The man’s condition, said HSA, was “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”.

One particular case entailed one consumer losing consciousness, leading up to severe heart failure in the present.

“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 3 months, she developed extremely fast heart rate (ventricular tachycardia), which led to a loss of consciousness, requiring resuscitation to save her life.

“As a result, she now suffers from severe heart failure, and is implanted with a defibrillator (device to regulate heart rhythm). She also requires long term heart failure medications,” HSA elaborated.

‘BB Body’, ‘Bello Smaze’ and ‘Choco Fit’ contain sibutramine, which was previously a prescription drug marketed as an appetite suppressant, but was banned by HSA nine years ago “due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as other serious adverse effects”.

‘Seahorse Chop Du Zhong Ba Ji Wan’ contains dexamethasone which is typically used to treat rheumatic problems, chlorpheniramine which typically works as an antihistamine in the treatment of allergies, and frusemide which is usually used in the treatment of oedema in the case of heart failure or kidney disease.

HSA’s Group Director of Health Products Regulation Group Associate Professor Chan Cheng Leng warned consumers to “not fall for claims or promises of quick weight loss when purchasing health products, whether they are sold online or in retail shops”.

Administrators of local online platforms instructed to take down public listings of products, sellers and suppliers ordered to stop selling; current consumers urged to seek doctor’s advice and treatment: HSA

Following the above cases, HSA has instructed the administrators of the local online platforms to remove the affected product listings, as the products are often marketed on various e-commerce and social media platforms, including Instagram and Facebook.

In addition to the removal of product listings, HSA reminded members of the public who might have purchased or consumed the products to cease taking them immediately and to consult a doctor if they feel unwell.

HSA added regarding ‘Seahorse Chop Du Zhong Ba Ji Wan’ that as it “contains a potent steroid, consumers who have taken this product should see a doctor as soon as possible”.

“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,” said the Authority.

HSA also warned the public against buying health products from “unfamiliar sources overseas” and to “exercise caution when buying such products online”.

“You cannot be certain where and how these products were made. They could potentially be counterfeits or contain undeclared ingredients which can seriously harm your health,” stressed the Authority.

HSA has also released a video for members of the public on the risks associated with buying unregulated health products online:

The Authority has also instructed all sellers and suppliers to cease marketing and selling such products immediately. Failing to do so will make them liable to prosecution and should they be convicted of such an offence, they may be “imprisoned for up to 3 years and/or fined up to $100,000”.

Members of the public who have spotted the continued sale and supply of these illegal products may telephone HSA’s Enforcement Branch at 6866-3485 during office hours from Monday to Friday, or email HSA at [email protected].