2 people suffer adverse effects after taking supplements with potent, banned substances: HSA

The traditional Herbs Preparation XPE was marketed for general health and listed a variety of natural herbs as its ingredients. PHOTO: HSA

SINGAPORE - Two people experienced adverse effects after taking products containing potent undeclared ingredients, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said on Tuesday (March 1).

The products are Traditional Herbs Preparation XPE and FS++ Slimming Supplements By JPJ Slim.

HSA advised the public to refrain from purchasing or consuming these products, and for those who have consumed them to see a doctor as soon as possible.

In its statement, HSA said it found potent adulterants, which include medicinal ingredients and sibutramine, a banned substance, in the products.

A woman in her 60s had been taking Traditional Herbs Preparation XPE for over nine months to alleviate joint pain.

She received the product from a friend who got it in Malaysia. The product was marketed for general health and listed a variety of natural herbs as its ingredients.

"Although the consumer experienced a quick relief of her joint pain, it worsened when she stopped taking it or reduced the dose," HSA said, adding that this raised her doctor's suspicions of the product.

Upon testing the product, HSA detected six medicinal ingredients: dexamethasone, chlorpheniramine, ibuprofen, lovastatin, chloramphenicol and tetracycline.

Dexamethasone is a steroid, chlorpheniramine is an antihistamine, ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and lovastatin is a cholesterol-lowering medicine. Chloramphenicol and tetracycline are both antibiotics.

Long-term unsupervised use of steroids such as dexamethasone can cause Cushing's syndrome and increased blood glucose levels, which can lead to diabetes, HSA added.

HSA also received feedback from a consumer who took FS++ Slimming Supplements By JPJ Slim and experienced insomnia, headache and confusion.

The product was bought through a local social media platform that carried reviews on its quick slimming results, and was packaged in a bottle that was labelled with minimal information - "60 capsules", "Made in Thailand" and a website link.

Sibutramine, which was found in the FS++ Slimming Supplements By JPJ Slim capsules, was banned by HSA in 2010. PHOTO: HSA

HSA found sibutramine in the capsules after testing them.

Sibutramine is used as an anti-obesity drug and works by suppressing the appetite of the consumer. It was banned by HSA in 2010 as it increases the risk of a heart attack and stroke.

HSA added that continued intake of the product could have led to serious health consequences such as heart problems and central nervous system disorders like psychosis and hallucinations.

The product was also sold by the same seller on other social media platforms, and HSA has worked with the platform administrators to remove the listings. Investigations against the seller are ongoing.

HSA advised consumers to be wary of products that carry exaggerated claims or deliver quick results, such as fast weight loss, as they can contain potent ingredients that can seriously harm one's health.

Consumers should also exercise caution when buying such products online or from well-meaning friends as they cannot be certain where and how these products were made and whether they have been adulterated with harmful ingredients.

"Adulterated products are often manufactured under poor conditions with no quality control, and different batches of the same product may contain variable amounts of ingredients and/or different types of adulterants," the HSA added.

Those convicted of selling or supplying products found to be adulterated with potent medicinal ingredients can be jailed for up to two years, fined up to $10,000, or both.

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