Counterfeit supplements taken by almost 40% of Hungary's 18-22 group

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock
©iStock

Related tags: Hungary, Sibutramine, Counterfeit

Nearly 40% of young people have already encountered a counterfeit dietary supplement, according to Hungary’s National Anti-Counterfeiting Board (HENT).

The Board’s latest survey reveals a growing demand for food supplements amongst the 18 - 22 age group in which 46.7% admit to taking such preparations in 2019 compared to 31% in 2018.  

Further findings from last year point to 67% of young adults, who consider the Internet to be the most popular channel for distributing counterfeit products.

“Certain weight loss products, combined with proper diet and exercise, can indeed be a solution for those struggling with weight problems, but we must confront suspicious an online ads offering consumers an unknown ‘miracle pill,’ ​says Gyula Pomázi, president of the National Office of Intellectual Property and deputy president of HENT.

“The legal requirements are clear: the use of claims which refer to the rate or extent of weight loss is prohibited.”

According to HENT, the results suggest more counterfeiters are taking advantage of the growing demand for various slimming drugs in late spring, early summer, promising products to consumers that can help quickly achieve the perfect body shape.

Indeed, further findings from the survey reveals over three-quarters (76.5%) of respondents in 2019 are aware that dietary supplements enhance traditional diets - an increase of nearly ten percentage points from the 2018 result.

Sibutramine still an issue

HENT says that diet pills from counterfeit or uncontrolled sources can be particularly dangerous to health, as reliable information on their actual composition cannot obtained without proper quality control.

An illegal product may contain active ingredients that are not listed on its label and may even lead to side effects that pose a serious health risk.

The organisation added that ingredients not listed, can cause severe allergic reactions in sensitive individuals that could lead to a fatal outcome.

“Active ingredients such as sibutramine have been withdrawn from the market due to serious, evenly fatal side effects,”​ says István Bérci, president of the Hungarian Association of Food Supplement Manufacturers and Distributors (MÉKISZ).

“However, the ingredient can still be found in products illegally distributed online, which poses a serious threat to the health and lives of those who want to lose weight.”

Current legislation governing supplement quality and safety in Hungary does not fall under the same regulation as Over the Counter (OTC) products or prescription medicines,

Manufacturers or distributors of dietary supplements need only participate in a notification process, which is the submission of the product label and data sheet to Hungary’s National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYÉI) on the day the product is placed on the market at the latest.

The list of announced products is published on the OGYÉI website​, along with other documents that list withdrawn products that are no longer distributed. 

In speaking about the country’s approach to supplement regulation, Pomázi adds the distinction between reliable diet products is made more difficult as most of these products currently on the market are considered food supplements.

In accordance with current EU practice, he points out that food supplements do not go through a pre-market testing process.

Safe Dietary Supplement Program

However, one initiative now underway is HENT’s Safe Dietary Supplement Program, an initiative that draws upon the cooperation of 1,600 of the country’s pharmacies to ensure only controlled and high-quality products reach consumers.

The initiative draws upon assistance from the Hungarian Chamber of Pharmacists, the National Association of Hungarian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, the Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers and the Hungarian Association of Food Supplement Manufacturers and Distributors.

Other Eastern European countries have adopted a similar scheme. In February, Poland’s Chief Sanitary Inspectorate launched a notification system to ‘improve supervision’ of businesses to meet notification requirements of dietary supplements and infant formulas.

The system looks to aid in fulfilling the obligations of companies that require owners to fill out the necessary notification forms whilst eliminating common mistakes.

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