18 March 2024, Quezon City. The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition is calling on consumers to be wary of products marketed as fat-burning supplements for weight loss as some of these products may contain sibutramine, an anti-obesity drug that can increase heart rate and elevate blood pressure.

The group issued the warning following the recent actions by regulatory authorities in Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong against slimming products containing sibutramine.

Last Saturday, March 16, Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the ban on the sale and use of “Slymchoco” or “Slymochoco” for containing sibutramine, which acts as an appetite suppressant. Citing information from the “Sibutramine Cardiovascular Outcome Study,” the MOH warned that “sibutramine has been found to increase cardiovascular risks such as heart attacks and strokes in obese patients.” MOH has therefore classified sibutramine as a “prohibited substance.”

In neighboring Singapore, the Health Science Authority (HSA) in January 2024 banned three weight loss products after finding them laced with “high amounts of sibutramine” described by the agency as “a banned toxic substance which can cause serious adverse effects when consumed.” The banned products include “Nature Slim,” “Slimming Seven Day by Figure Up,” and “Energy Booster Figure-UP New Look Strong Version” falsely marketed as “natural” or “herbal” weight-reducing products.

Last February 6, Hong Kong’s Department of Health (DH) conducted a law enforcement action to stop the sale of “HOTCHA Botanical Beverage Mix Chocolate” and “HOTCHA Botanical Beverage Mix Hazelnut Coffee with Mirosil,” which were found to contain sibutramine.

Sibutramine and sibutramine-containing products are likewise banned in the Philippines. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through Memorandum Circular 2010-019 took action against sibutramine “due to unnecessary cardiovascular risks to patients.” The agency on several occasions warned against the purchase and use of unregistered weight loss products with sibutramine.

In 2014, following successive advisories issued by the FDA on sibutramine-containing slimming products, the EcoWaste Coalition conducted a market investigation, which found 36 brands of banned and/or unregistered slimming coffee, chocolate drinks, juice, or tea on sale in herbal and beauty product stores.

To avoid cardiovascular risks, the EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers not to consume unregistered health products, read labeling information carefully, shun products with exaggerated claims, and check the FDA product verification portal before making any purchase.

The group likewise urged online shopping platforms to take down advertisements for weight loss products that have been banned by regulatory authorities in the Philippines and other countries and are not duly registered with the FDA.

As advised by Hong Kong’s DH, “weight control should be achieved through a balanced diet and appropriate exercise,” adding “the public should consult healthcare professionals before using any medication for weight control.”