30
November
2017
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00:01
Europe/Amsterdam

New research shows desperate dieters in danger - the secret world of online slimming pills

Online sellers of potentially dangerous slimming pills containing withdrawn pharmaceutical ingredients are putting desperate dieters’ health at serious risk by seducing them with the promise of quick-fix weight loss and discreet deliveries that bypass discussions with their GP and pharmacist, new research reveals.

One in three slimmers have tried slimming pills purchased online, according to the joint #FakeMeds survey of 1,805 slimmers by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and Slimming World. Since April 2013, the Agency has seized nearly £4 million worth of dodgy weight loss pills.

Three quarters of slimmers (77%) were enticed by promises of rapid weight loss, more than half were attracted to being able to order discreetly (57%) and more than four in ten (44%) ordered online because they didn’t want to speak to a GP or pharmacist, the survey revealed.

However, almost two-in-three (63%) suffered unpleasant side effects after taking slimming pills bought online. These side effects included diarrhoea, bleeding that wouldn’t stop, blurred vision and heart problems. Worryingly, four out of five (81%) didn’t report these side effects to anyone.

The potentially dangerous products seized by the Agency are not tested for safety and have been found stored in dirty, rat-infested warehouses and garden sheds. In 2016, MHRA seized more than 4.6 million fake medical products and closed more than 5,000 websites selling medicines illegally.

Four out of 10 respondents said they had used the slimming pills knowing there were health risks, with more than six out of ten (62%) doing so because they were ‘desperate to lose weight’.

Sarah-Jayne Walker, who became obsessed with slimming pills bought online before quitting her habit and eventually joining Slimming World, said: “I used to spend hours searching the web for what I thought were the right diet pills, ones that said they would work straight away and that had the best reviews. My mind became consumed with those pills…

“However, after suffering heart palpitations, IBS, sickness, light headedness and even fainting, I knew I had to get a grip and sort my mind out. I joined Slimming World at the end of May and it has been a revelation. I don’t have to punish myself or feel guilty for eating anymore and I’ve lost just over two stone. The support has been amazing and I can’t tell you how proud I feel of myself.”

The majority of diet products are regulated as foods, however the MHRA regularly seizes products that contain withdrawn pharmaceutical ingredients due to risks of heart attacks and strokes.

MHRA Senior Policy Manager, Lynda Scammell, said: “Quick fixes for losing weight may have serious health consequences in the short or long term, including organ failure and death.

“It’s essential you know what you’re buying online and what the risks are. If you don’t, your weight could end up being the least of your worries!

“If you’re looking to buy medicines online, check if the seller is registered by using our easy online checking system, www.gov.uk/fakemeds or check if they display the Distance Selling logo.

“If you think you’ve bought fake medical products, please let us know via www.gov.uk/fakemeds. This way we can use the information to continue to seize these products and close websites that are putting public health at risk.

“There are reputable groups out there that can support you to lose weight through healthy lifestyle changes. Your GP or healthcare professional will be able to advise you on finding the right option for you.”

Jenny Caven, Head of External Affairs
Learning to make changes to the way you shop, cook and eat and getting support to develop new healthy habits really is the best way to lose weight. Not only is it safer, it’s also far more satisfying and has the added benefit that newfound habits can be passed on to the people around you too.
Jenny Caven, Head of External Affairs

Jenny Caven, Slimming World’s Head of External Affairs, said: “It’s easy to see how quick fix promises made by the sellers of online slimming pills could seem tempting to people who are desperately struggling with their weight.

“Buying slimming pills online can be incredibly risky though. The sellers are often unregulated and taking the pills puts people at risk of dangerous side effects. Learning to make changes to the way you shop, cook and eat and getting support to develop new healthy habits really is the best way to lose weight. Not only is it safer, it’s also far more satisfying and has the added benefit that newfound habits can be passed on to the people around you too. Getting support makes your new habits more likely to stick in the longer term and you won’t suffer any nasty side effects.”

The #FakeMeds survey highlights how easy it is for people to buy potentially dangerous slimming pills online. Therefore, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

is working in partnership with Slimming World as part of the Agency’s #FakeMeds Campaign to encourage those wanting to lose weight to turn to safe, legitimate and appropriate routes.

The #FakeMeds campaign website has a range of easy and quick top tips to keep yourself safe online. www.gov.uk/fakemeds

If you would like to hear more about the healthy weight loss support that Sarah-Jayne experienced please visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk.

  1. Another Slimming World member’s story:

    Sue Golder, who quit slimming pills after suffering side effects and went on to lose 7st 7lbs with Slimming World by making healthy lifestyle changes, said: “I started seeing adverts for online slimming pills and, in desperation, I ordered them. Friends soon started telling me to slow down when I was speaking, I felt my heart racing and I got headaches and a dry throat. I also read some very frightening articles about the pills I was taking and so I got scared and stopped.

    “I joined Slimming World as I wanted to make a real lifestyle change and I’m so glad I did. I’m now 7st 7lbs lighter and now I enjoy eating normal every day meals, just cooked slightly differently. I’m proud of the fact that I lost weight through making healthy lifestyle changes. I wouldn’t ever try a quick fix again - it just isn’t worth the risk.”

  1. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency #FakeMeds campaign url: www.gov.uk/fakemeds Follow #FakeMeds on Twitter.

  2. #FakeMeds Survey of 1,805 people was developed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and Slimming World.

  3. The statement “one in three slimmers have tried slimming pills purchased online” relates to 588 survey respondents or (32.58%) of the total survey respondents stating they had bought slimming pill online.

  4. “Three quarters of slimmers (77%) were enticed by promises of rapid weight loss” relates to 401 survey respondents or 76.53% of the survey population that answered the question “What was it about slimming pills that appealed to you?”

  5. “More than half were attracted to being able to order discreetly (57%)” relates to 303 survey respondents or 57.82% of the population that answered the question “What was it about buying slimming pills ONLINE that appealed to you?”

  6. “More than four in ten (44%) ordered online because they didn’t want to speak to a GP or pharmacist” relates to 233 survey respondents or 44.47% of the survey population that answered the question “What was it about buying slimming pills ONLINE that appealed to you?”

  7. “Almost two-in-three (63%) suffered unpleasant side effects after taking slimming pills bought online” this refers to 325 respondents or 63.35% of the population that answered the question “Which, if any, of the following side effects did you experience while you were taking slimming pills?”

  8. “Four out of five (81%) didn’t report these side effects to anyone” refers to 264 respondents or 80.73% o the population that answered the question “You said you experienced side effects while taking slimming pills. Did you report these side effects to any of the following?”

  9. “Four out of 10 respondents said they had used the slimming pills knowing there were health risks” refers to 217 survey respondents or 41.49% of the population who said they were “Quite aware” and “very aware” in response to the question “Before taking slimming pills purchased online, to what extent did you

    feel aware of the possible health risks associated with slimming pills?”

  10. Following on from the point above, “with more than six out of ten (62%) doing so because they were ‘desperate to lose weight’” refers to 136 respondents or 62.39% of the population who answered the question “You say that you were aware of the possible health risks of slimming pills before you took them. Why do you think you decided to take the slimming pills?”

  11. The public is advised that they should take prescription-only medicines after an appropriate consultation with their GP. Only healthcare professionals can take into account risks and benefits associated with every medicine.

  12. There is no quick fix for losing weight and even those on slimming pills prescribed by their doctor must also work to maintain a healthy diet and exercise. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that people are directed to evidence based weight management programmes.

  13. From April 2013 – March 2017, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency seized £3,747,636 worth of fake slimming pills. Sibutramine, Lida Daidai Hua and Long Dan Xie Gan Wan were the main products seized in 2016/17.

  14. Reductil (Sibutramine) is a medicine that was withdrawn across Europe and the US in 2010 due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes associated with its use. Other side-effects include headache, dry mouth, anorexia, constipation, insomnia, inflammation of the nose, sore throat, increased appetite, back pain, flu syndrome, accidental injury, asthenia, nausea, joint pain, nervousness, bloating and sinusitis.

  15. There are no medicines that are licensed for slimming in the UK. There are medicines that are licensed for treating obesity; such as

    1. Orlistat (brand names Alli, Beacita and Xenical). Alli is available from pharmacies without prescription but all the other brands + any generic ‘orlistat’ capsules are prescription only.

    2. Phentermine (brand name Ionamin). Prescription only

    3. Diethylpropion: Prescription only.

    4. Naltrexone + bupropion (brand name Mysimba): Prescription only.

  16. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is responsible for protecting and improving the health of millions of people every day through the effective regulation of medicines and medical devices, underpinned by science and research. The Agency consists of three centres: CPRD, NIBSC and the MHRA regulatory centre.

  17. Slimming World offers a long-term behaviour change programme to help people lose weight by making healthy lifestyle changes. Founded in 1969, there are now more than 16,000 weekly groups run by a network of 4,500 trained Consultants who have all lost weight with Slimming World. Slimming World’s support is based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people and recognition that those who struggle with weight carry a double burden, the weight itself and a burden of guilt and shame about their weight. Slimming World offers a healthy eating plan based on the science of satiety and energy density, a programme that encourages people to find new ways of building activity into their daily routine and motivating group support to empower people to make long-term healthy lifestyle changes. The support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.

  18. Another Slimming World member’s story:

    Sue Golder, who quit slimming pills after suffering side effects and went on to lose 7st 7lbs with Slimming World by making healthy lifestyle changes, said: “I started seeing adverts for online slimming pills and, in desperation, I ordered them. Friends soon started telling me to slow down when I was speaking, I felt my heart racing and I got headaches and a dry throat. I also read some very frightening articles about the pills I was taking and so I got scared and stopped.

    “I joined Slimming World as I wanted to make a real lifestyle change and I’m so glad I did. I’m now 7st 7lbs lighter and now I enjoy eating normal every day meals, just cooked slightly differently. I’m proud of the fact that I lost weight through making healthy lifestyle changes. I wouldn’t ever try a quick fix again - it just isn’t worth the risk.”