Warning on banned diet pill after woman dies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 July, 2005, 12:00am

Consumers have been warned not to buy or use the slimming product sheung ching chun , after tests showed it to contain a banned drug and a prescription-only medicine.

The Department of Health tested the treatment, whose name means forever young, following the death of a 53-year-old woman who had bought a bottle of the capsules. The woman collapsed two weeks ago with shortness of breath. She was admitted to hospital but died four days later.

Health officials interviewed members of the woman's family but were unable to discover where she bought the product, which has not been legally imported for sale in Hong Kong.

Government tests showed the treatment contained the banned drugs fenfluramine, used to treat obesity, and propranolol, a treatment for hypertension available only by doctor's prescription.

A Department of Health spokesman said anyone who had bought the product should stop taking it immediately and should seek medical attention if they felt unwell. They should throw away any capsules in their possession or hand them in to the department's pharmaceutical service in Shamshuipo.

Consumers can also call a hotline, 2572 2068, for information.

Fenfluramine has been banned in Hong Kong since 1998 after scientific studies linked it with heart valve disease. Before that, it was used as an appetite suppressant for the management of obesity.

Propranolol is used in the management of hypertension, but it can cause hypotension, decreased heart rate and fatigue.

Health officials warned that products containing propranolol are western medicines and must be registered before sale.

The department's spokesman said the crucial factors in keeping fit and healthy were a balanced diet and adequate physical exercise.

'Members of the public should consult their doctors before they take any medicine or health product for weight control,' he said.

The department has informed counterparts on the mainland and in Macau about sheung ching chun.