On a just-launched FakeMeds awareness website, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in 2015 it had shut down 2000 online retailers selling illegal products. 240,000 potentially ‘useless’ and ‘dangerous’ doses had been removed from market.
The campaign advises a healthy diet and exercise and offers advice on recognising reputable retailers along with a #fakemeds Twitter campaign, 24 hour hotline and email to report counterfeit products.
Adverse effects including “heart attacks, strokes, permanent liver damage and even death” can also be reported via its Yellow Card system, the body said.
“Thousands of pills and potions promising miracle results are bought over the summer months as holidaymakers look for shortcuts to beach-ready bodies – with women aged 18-30 most likely to buy,” the MHRA said.
“After handing over bank details, many receive bottles of tablets packed with dangerous or useless ingredients. Nasty side effects can include heart attacks, strokes – and in extreme cases, death.”
MHRA senior policy manager Lynda Scammell said the ingredients in many of the unlicensed products were “unknown and untested”.
“If you have serious concerns about your weight, you should consult your GP or another healthcare professional,” she said.
Typical banned ingredients in weight loss products without a prescription include sibutramine, sildenafil, DNP and glibenclamide.
More broadly the MHRA said: “Common examples of fake or unlicensed medicines and medical devices include so-called ‘smart drugs’, condoms, erectile dysfunction drugs, medicines sold as sports supplements, dental equipment and STI test kits.”