On 30 October, the Pharmaceutical Enforcement Division of the Negeri Sembilan Health Department reported to have seized a total of 842 illegal health and cosmetic products worth RM1.6 million, between January and October this year.

State Health Director Dr Zainuddin Mohd Ali asserted that the products were seized as they were either unregistered, or suspected to contain poison.

Slimming and cosmetic products either unregistered or contain scheduled poison

“Among the products were slimming supplements Figure-up, Pure Slim 7D and ‘Surut Ayu’, that contained scheduled poison sibutramine, as well as Tati Skincare Treatment Cream, Glow Glowing Night Glow, and Glow Glowing Day Pinky Beauty, that contained hydroquinone, tretinoin and mercury,” he noted.

Sibutramine is a stimulant commonly found in slimming products and is listed under the S6 (specified stimulants) category of the World Anti-Doping Agency code released in January.

Additionally, pharmaceutical products containing hydroquinone and tretinoin are classified as products requiring registration with the Drug Control Authority (DCA)—and can only be used under the supervision of healthcare professionals.

Tati Skincare Treatment Cream, one of the cosmetic products being confiscated, contains sibutramine, a banned product. Photo credit: HSA
Tati Skincare Treatment Cream, one of the cosmetic products being confiscated, contains sibutramine, a banned product. Photo credit: HSA

According to a recent press statement by Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director General of Health, Ministry of Health, hydroquinone is commonly found in cosmetic products typically marketed for skin lightening, as well as treating blemishes and uneven skin tone. Without the supervision of healthcare professionals, there is the risk of side effects which include skin redness, discomfort, discolouration, hypersensitivity and depigmentation—increasing the risk of skin cancer.

Similarly, tretinoin is commonly found in cosmetic products that treat acne and reduces wrinkles. Besides stinging and peeling, other harmful side effects are similar to that of hydroquinone’s.

Mercury is another common substance found in cosmetic products that treat skin-lightening and fight ageing. The harmful side effects include damages to the kidneys and nervous system. It can also harm others, especially young children, where inhalation of mercury vapours can interfere with the development of their brains.

Tighter enforcement on online activities

According to Dr Zainuddin, 55 investigations papers have been opened so far—and 52 individuals have been charged, of which 44 have pleaded guilty.

As of October, 59 raids have been carried out in premises such as pharmacies, sundry shops, private residences, traditional medicine premises and beauty salons.

“Fines collected for offences under the Sales of Drugs Act as of October amounted to RM150,550,” remarked Dr Zainuddin.

Online sales of health and cosmetic products were also monitored by the department, with enforcement activities being carried out when necessary. As a result, 47 Facebook accounts involved in such activities have been deactivated so far.

“We have also seized products worth RM80,000 during raids on two online sellers,” highlighted Dr Zainuddin.

“This is to ensure that no unregistered or poison-laced products were being sold and distributed to the public. In this regard, we are working closely with Cyber Security Malaysia (CSM) in conducting raids and investigations into cases involving digital devices and mobile applications,” he asserted.

The public from Negeri Sembilan are advised to make complaints and enquiries on status of products at the National Pharmacy Regulatory Division website or at the Pharmaceutical Enforcement Division under the Ministry of Health (MOH) (or through a phone call at 06-766 4800). MIMS

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