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Thailand’s Health Ministry Lists Weight Loss Drug “Sibutramine” as Narcotic for Public Safety

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BANGKOK – Ministry of Public Health Thursday upgraded sibutramine (formerly sold under the brand name Meridia) to a psychotropic substance in a bid to prevent use of the appetite suppressant as a pharmacological ingredient in weight loss products for public safety.

The move came after a March 28 incident in which Pimonwan Mon-ing, 31, died of an acute heart attack after taking Lyn weight-loss pills for days in Kanchanaburi.

Police said medical examination showed her death stemmed from taking sibutramine which is mixed in the pills. Her younger brother has filed a complaint with police against the product distributor and manufacturer.

MOPH deputy permanent secretary Thanet Krainairawiwong said yesterday the ministry’s committee on psychotropic substances agreed to put sibutramine on the list of Category 1 narcotics in order to pursue harsh legal action against those who smuggled sibutramine into the country or had it in their possession.

According to Dr Thanet, manufacturers and importers of sibutramine will face a prison term of five to 20 years and a fine of 500,000 to two million baht while those importing the substance with intent to sell will face a fine of 700,000 to two million baht and a jail term of seven to 20 years.

An imprisonment of four to 20 years and a fine of 400,000 to two million baht will be given to those selling sibutramine; they will also face an additional fine of 20,000 baht if the substance is used as a pharmacological ingredient in their products, he said.

Dr Thanet said the measure will come into force with immediate effect after the announcement is signed off by Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn in July.

Speaking on the issue, Surachoke Tangwiwat, deputy secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said the measure against sibutramine was launched as the substance was achieving little in terms of medication.

Sibutramine has been banned since 2010 following a report that the substance can cause severe side effects including extreme stress on the cardiovascular system, he said.

In another development, Ungsumalin “Patty” Sirapatsakmetha and Chutavuth “Mark” Pattarakampol yesterday appeared at the Royal Thai Police to give testimonies in connection with substandard cosmetics and weight loss products procured by Magic Skin Co.

Both are among the 29 celebrities who were summoned for questioning by police for promoting products for the firm.

During an inquiry led by deputy national police chief Wirachai Songmetta, Ungsumalin admitted she reviewed products manufactured by Magic Skin Co.

The actress, however, insisted she had always checked whether products bore FDA certificates before promoting them.

She also apologized to the public and those who were affected by the products.

Meanwhile Chutavuth admitted it was careless of him to promote three products — Mezzo, Slim Milk and Fern– late last year.

Investigators are expecting to wrap up the case and forward it to prosecutors by next month for a decision on whether to take it further.

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