By K. SAITHURUKA
KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has banned Bestrim, a slimming product found to contain the harmful substance fenfluramine besides nicotinamide and caffeine, which are disallowed in the preparation of traditional products.
Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the Government was also conducting tests on 50 other traditional slimming products to determine if they contain fenfluramine, phentermine or other banned poisons.
The ban on Bestrim comes in the wake of the China-made Slim 10 scare in Singapore, where logistics executive Selvarani Raja died of liver failure last weekend.
Television artiste Andrea De Cruz had earlier developed liver failure after taking the pill. A transplant with part of her boyfriend Pierre Png's liver saved De Cruz.
Chua told a press conference yesterday that 14,200 capsules and five kilos of powdered Bestrim, were seized from two factories after a raid recently.
"The manufacturers and its distributors have been told to stop production immediately and recall the product from the market", he said.
Chua said the ministry has suspended the distributor's licence, adding that packaging used by one of the manufacturers was also misleading and violated the law because it carried the ministry's emblem.
He said one manufacturer had not complied with the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification while the other was just given the certification but not allowed to start production yet.
He said Bestrim was registered under the Drug Control Authority in 2000 but the manufacturers did not list the harmful ingredients.
"Samples of the products have been sent to the Chemistry Department for further analysis and the Pharmaceutical Department has been directed to carry out tests on other traditional slimming products in the market", he said adding that it was not reasonable to recall all the 50 registered products being checked.
The government banned fenfluramine which has been associated with heart-valve and thyroid problems and hepatitis in 1997.
Its side effects include fatigue, impotence, depression, skin rashes and blood disorders.
Phentermine, which is available only through a doctor's prescription, causes insomnia, abdominal cramps, gastro-intestinal disturbances and palpitations.
Chua said manufacturers who violated the law could be fined up to RM25,000 or jailed three years or both for first their offence and RM50,000 or five years imprisonment or both for the subsequent offences, under the Regulations for the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics 1984.
Errant companies could be fined RM50,000 and RM100,000 for the first and subsequent offences respectively. Violators could also be fined RM5,000 or jailed two years or both, under the Poisons Act.
Chua said if the manufacturers knew that their products contained banned substances and still allowed production, their products could be deregistered and their factories closed.
On Slim 10, Chua said the ministry received a report that a local student was admitted to Kuala Lumpur Hospital on March 29 for liver toxicity after taking the pill.
He said it was difficult to determine where the student got the product as she had left the country for further studies but added that she was treated and discharged six days later.
Asked whether the ministry conducts testing before a product is released into the market, Chua said stringent tests were usually done but the analysis took a longer time and required a declaration from the manufacturers.
Chua said the ministry would continue with its market surveillance and more samples would be collected for analysis.
"I advise consumers to be wary of traditional products which claim to have slimming effects without exercise or controlled diet", he said.
Source: The Star (June 5, 2002)
Ministry orders withdrawal of slimming product Bestrim
The Health Ministry has ordered the immediate withdrawal of a local traditional slimming product, Bestrim, from the market after it was found to contain the banned substance fenfluramine.
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