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Obesity

Dieters buy slimming pills online to avoid pharmacists and GPs

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and Slimming World are warning that online sellers are providing dangerous slimming pills containing withdrawn pharmaceutical ingredients.

Almost half of dieters who put their health at serious risk by buying online slimming pills say they turn to the internet because they don’t want to talk to a pharmacist or their GP.

A survey carried out by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and Slimming World, found that 44% of slimmers said they bought their slimming pills online.

The survey carried out as part of the MHRA’s #FakeMeds campaign found that one in three dieters have tried slimming pills bought online.

Over three-quarters of slimmers said they were enticed by promises of rapid weight loss and more than half were attracted to the internet by being able to order discreetly.

Dangerous practice

The organisations are warning that online sellers are providing dangerous slimming pills containing withdrawn pharmaceutical ingredients. Since 2013 the MHRA has seized nearly £4m worth of what it describes as “dodgy weight-loss pills”.

The survey found that 63% of people suffered unpleasant side effects after taking slimming pills bought online. These included diarrhoea, bleeding that would not stop, blurred vision and heart problems. However, 81% of people did not report the side effects they had experienced.

Four out of 10 respondents to the survey said they had used the slimming pills knowing there were health risks, with more than 62% doing so because they were “desperate to lose weight”.

MHRA senior policy manager Lynda Scammell said: “Quick fixes for losing weight may have serious health consequences in the short or long term, including organ failure and death.

“It’s essential you know what you’re buying online and what the risks are. If you don’t, your weight could end up being the least of your worries!”

The MHRA is encouraging the public to check if an online seller is registered by using its online checking system at www.gov.uk/fakemeds.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20204065

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