At least eight slimming products imported from China have so far tested positive for the controlled substance sibutramine.
Last week Beeld was told by a reliable source that inspectors from the South African Medicines Control Council (MCC) have to scramble to catch these kinds of products before they reach the market.
Besides shipments of Simply Slim, Forme Slim, NuEvo and HNS New Me which were reported on earlier this year, Maxi Slim, Studio Slim, Evo Slim and Slimline products reportedly also tested positive for sibutramine over the past two months.
Don't trust Chinese suppliers
Some of the distributors told Beeld they had withdrawn the contaminated products from the market and most have started using South African manufacturers instead.
One reason for this is because they don't trust their Chinese suppliers.
Experts warn that it is extremely dangerous to ingest unregistered prescription substances like sibutramine, because it might contain dangerously high levels of the active ingredients.
After Carla Kotze from Malmesbury lost 22kg by using Simply Slim, she had her capsules tested and found out that the two boxes contained 33.2mg and 28.4mg of sibutramine respectively.
The maximum dose of sibutramine is 15mg.
The content was thus double the strength of the strongest prescription slimming aid on the market, and to make matters worse, she wasn't under a doctor's supervision while taking the capsules.
According to tests done at Pharmaworx, NuEvo contains 29mg of sibutramine.
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned in January that people with a history of heart disease, stroke, arrhythmia, heart attack or blood pressure problems (above 145/90mmHg) shouldn't even use the allowed dose of registered sibutramine.
The MCC's inspectors have intercepted and tested all slimming aids at customs ports.
Some distributers had their products tested themselves.
The MCC suspended the sale of Simply Slim in February after tests found that it contains sibutramine.
Shortly before the suspension, the distributors of HNS New Me, Forme Slim and NuEvo pulled their products from the market.
Beeld has heard that Maxi Slim also recently removed its product from the market.
Many products which have been withdrawn and many of the locally produced new slimming aids don't have clinical trials to prove that the products have been tested on people and/or that they are effective.
Pharmacists in this industry said local factories who are now taking over the manufacturing of the products are being closely watched by the MCC and mostly comply with safety standards.
However, there are currently no regulations in place for the registration of supplementary medicines. - (Antoinette Pienaar, Beeld, March 2010)
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