NHS Watchdog Warns Against Buying Weight Loss Pills Online

By Bill Branson, National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia Commons

The UK medicines watchdog has warned that two-thirds of people that are looking to lose some pounds the easy way by ordering diet pills online say that they were left with side-effects including diarrhoea and bleeding.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has confiscated dangerous slimming pills that are worth £4m in the past five years and is warning that these products pose a “serious risk” to dieters.

The majority of the slimming pills that were confiscated include a medicine which was removed across the United States and Europe in 2010 that is called sibutramine. The said product increases the risk of stroke and heart attacks, among other side effects.

The MHRA organized a survey with Slimming World, a weight-loss organisation, as part of the agency’s #FakeMeds campaign and discovered that one in three or 588 of the 1,805 slimmers who responded to the survey, admitted to trying slimming pills that were bought online.

The main reason that was given by the respondents was the prospect of quick and easy weight loss. However, it also revealed that being able to order the slimming products without having to have a difficult conversation regarding weight was a bonus to purchasing online.

However, the MHRA warns that these customers are opening themselves up to dangerous side effects. A 2010 report regarding safe medicines in Europe discovered that 62 percent of medicines that were bought online were fake or substandard.

And the survey discovered that 63 percent of people who admitted to purchasing online said that they experience unpleasant side effects “including diarrhoea, bleeding that wouldn’t stop, blurred vision and heart problems.”

Other side-effects of sibutramine that were listed include nausea, dry mouth, anxiety, bloating, and joint pain.

More worryingly, four out of five slimmers said that they did not report the side effects that they have experienced to anyone.

Interpol has advised that fake slimming pills are an increasing problem and there have been numerous recent cases that involve the deaths of young, healthy people who ordered weight loss medications online

Sarah-Jayne Walker, a Slimming World user, said that she became “consumed” by the quick-fix weight loss pills and that she used to search the internet for the right ones.

She said: “However, after suffering heart palpitations, IBS, sickness, lightheadedness and even fainting, I knew I had to get a grip and sort my mind out.”

MHRA seized over £500,000 worth of diet pills in 2016 and £1.5 million in 2015, the most of which were picked up at post offices. However, some were seized from the homes of the sellers.

Lynda Scammell, the MHRA Senior Policy Manager, stated: “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.”

The MHRA has some information for staying safe when buying medicines online and advises the use of the government-backed online checking system.