Singapore's Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has warned against the use of a weight-loss product, VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex, after it was found to contain a banned substance that could cause serious adverse effects such as heart attacks and seizures.

The product, which is sold on several websites and popular social media platforms, contains very high levels of sibutramine and phenolphthalein, a prohibited and undeclared medicine respectively, in Singapore. The HSA has warned sellers to stop selling the product immediately.

Sibutramine is present in many weight loss products and has been banned from sale in Singapore since 2010 due to cardiovascular risks associated with it. Before the ban, it was prescribed clinically as an appetite suppressant for obesity management.

The levels of sibutramine in VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex were found to be able to cause serious adverse effects such as heart attacks, seizures, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, arrhythmia, anxiety, depression and mood swing, the HSA said on 18 November.

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

False advertisement of all natural ingredients

VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex claims to be an all-natural product, including natural ingredients such as fruit and herbal extracts. According to the label, "immediate changes after around seven days and significant results in 21 days", will be seen.

No reports of "adverse events" that are associated with the product have been received by the HSA, but the use of other slimming products with high levels of sibutramine have led to the hospitalisation of consumers locally and overseas.

HSA has also advised those consuming VIP Bio Mangosteen Complex to stop immediately or consult a doctor if they are concerned about their health or are feeling unwell. HSA also urged the public to be wary of health products that advertise for quick and miraculous weight loss or carry exaggerated claims such as "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," HSA advises.

They also urge the public to not trust online product reviews as many testimonials are not verifiable, to exercise caution when purchasing health products online as they can be counterfeits or adulterated with undeclared potent ingredients.

HSA warns against sale of illegal health products

HSA concludes by warning sellers that if they are caught selling illegal health products, offenders could be fined up to S$100,000, jailed up to three years, or both under the Health Products Act.

Similarly, under the Poisons Act, they could be fined up to S$10,000, serve a two-year jail-term, or both. Under the Medicines Act, they could be fined up to S$5,000, jailed up to two years, or both.

Last month, the HSA warned about two local health products for circulation and pain relief after a man was hospitalised in Singapore.

This comes after the HSA also warned against three separate Malaysian health products after four people were hospitalised in September. MIMS

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