Banned substance found in weight-loss product 'VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex' sold online: HSA

Members of the public have been urged not to purchase or consume "VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex", a weight-loss product sold online, said the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in a press release on Friday (Nov 18).
Members of the public have been urged not to purchase or consume "VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex", a weight-loss product sold online, said the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in a press release on Friday (Nov 18).PHOTO: HEALTH SCIENCES AUTHORITY

SINGAPORE - Members of the public have been urged not to purchase or consume "VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex", a weight-loss product sold online, said the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in a press release on Friday (Nov 18).

The product was tested by HSA and found to contain very high levels of a prohibited western medicine, sibutramine, and another potent undeclared western medicine, phenolphthalein.

Phenolphthalein is an obsolete pharmaceutical compound that has been superseded by newer laxatives.

The product is labelled to contain only natural ingredients, including fruit and herbal extracts. It also claims to deliver "immediate changes after around 7 days and significant results in 21 days".

HSA's investigations revealed that the product is sold on several websites and popular social media platforms carrying testimonials of its weight loss effects.

Sibutramine is a weight-loss medicine that has been disallowed for sale in Singapore since 2010 due to serious safety concerns associated with cardiovascular risks. The high levels of sibutramine detected in "VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex" could make it very toxic and cause serious adverse effects such as heart attacks and seizures (fits), HSA said.

Several consumers have reported having hallucinations or hearing voices after consuming other health products adulterated with high levels of sibutramine. Other possible adverse effects include high blood pressure, increased heart rate, irregular heartbeat, anxiety, depression and mood swings.


The front view of the bottle. PHOTO: HEALTH SCIENCES AUTHORITY

While HSA has not received any adverse event reports associated with "VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex" locally, the use of other slimming products adulterated with high levels of sibutramine have led to consumers being hospitalised both locally and overseas. Before it was banned, sibutramine was a prescription medicine used as an appetite suppressant to manage obesity.

Phenolphthalein was used as a laxative in the past, but has not been registered in Singapore since 2011. Phenolphthalein may cause rashes, abdominal cramps, breathing difficulties, kidney disorders and has been found in animal studies to be associated with cancer.

Members of the public are advised to do the following:

- Stop taking "VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex" immediately, and consult a doctor if you feel unwell or are concerned about your health.

- Be wary of health products that promise quick and miraculous weight loss or carry exaggerated claims like "guaranteed results" or "scientifically proven". Such products may contain prescription medicines which should only be taken under medical supervision, or undeclared potent ingredients that may seriously harm your health. Do not gamble with your health.

- Do not trust online product reviews, as these testimonials usually cannot be verified.

- Exercise caution when purchasing health products online. Anyone can be a seller on these e-commerce platforms. Products sold online could also potentially be counterfeits or adulterated with undeclared potent ingredients.

Members of the public are also encouraged to visit www.healthdangers.sg to learn more about the dangers of buying illegal health products from dubious sources.

Sellers should stop selling "VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex" immediately. They are reminded that it is illegal to sell and supply complementary health products (e.g. health supplements, traditional medicines) containing undeclared potent western medicines or banned substances.

Anyone convicted of selling illegal health products may be liable for a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for a period of up to three years.

Members of the public who have any information on the sale and supply of 'VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex' or other illegal products may contact HSA's Enforcement Branch at Tel: 6866-3485 during office hours (Monday to Friday) or email: hsa_is@hsa.gov.sg.