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article imageThe heavy price of losing weight

By Alexander Baron     May 30, 2011 in Health
A partial review of a TV programme with other information relating to how buying diet pills on-line can cost you more than money.
Libertarians and members of the general public often complain about the high price of drugs, medicines and sundry herbal concoctions. Some are available only on prescription, and some are not available legally at all. Regardless of whether or not the drugs companies are operating a cartel, and whatever the morals of prohibition, there are very good reasons for the legal restrictions in most cases, as people who buy drugs on-line sometimes discover to their cost.
Today’s Fake Britain programme presented by the inimitable Dominic Littlewood highlights the price paid by one unsuspecting young woman. Samantha Pressdee is a dancer ; last November she was featured in a Daily Mail article about the hazards of buying diet pills on-line. Today, she spoke on camera about the price she paid for using a medicine that does not have the official seal of approval: £1 per pill, with paranoia, mania, and a free (compulsory) stay in a mental hospital thrown in.
Samantha said she first heard about this particular diet pill from the TV complete with a celebrity endorsement. What she didn’t hear, is that ephedra, which these particular pills contain, has been banned by both the US and the British authorities. Ephedra is an extract of a Chinese plant, ephedra sinica or ma huang. In the USA, there was intensive lobbying by drug companies to legitimise this substance as a dietary supplement, but following a ruling by the New Jersey District Court, the Food & Drug Administration issued a notice on April 12, 2004 prohibiting its sale; this notice included clear warnings to both manufacturers and the public:
"We will take appropriate enforcement actions if needed to stop manufacturers from illegally selling and distributing dietary supplements containing ephedra alkaloids," from Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, who added, "These products pose unacceptable health risks, and any consumers who are still using them should stop immediately."
And from the Acting FDA Commissioner, Lester M. Crawford, “Dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids have been shown to pose a real risk to health”.
The FDA said it intended to monitor the Internet advertising of the companies - numbering more than sixty - which had been warned officially to cease selling dietary supplements that contained ephedrine alkaloids. Regardless of this, ephedra is still widely available on the Internet, including from Canada and the UK.
Samantha told Dominic Littlewood that after taking the pills she felt what she called a surge of energy, and began cleaning things fanatically. She also became irritable, snappy, and paranoid. Shortly, her mother took her to the doctor, but the connection was not made until she started freaking out in the family home. This resulted in her being taken away in an ambulance and sectioned under the Mental Health Act, but fortunately the medics also searched her bedroom, found the diet pills, and made the connection. By this time, Samantha said, she’d totally lost the plot. It took three months for the poison to be flushed out of her system and for her to recover control of her faculties.
She cautioned other people against buying such products on-line, as did Dr Ian Campbell, Chairman of the British National Obesity Forum, who told presenter Littlewood that the quick fix such medications promised did not exist, adding that ephedra is a stimulant that can affect the cardio-vascular system among other things. Though Samantha’s case was extreme, it was by no means unique; ephedra has been banned because it is unsafe and unproven.
In Britain, the body responsible for regulating diet pills and related substances is the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (known as the MHRA). It is part of the Department of Health, and on February 12, 2008, it issued the following warning about ephedra:
“The Danish Medicines Agency and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration have issued strong warnings about the Therma Power slimming drug following the death of a 36 year old man. The man died as a result of a blood clot in the heart. Therma Power is available in two varieties, red and blue. The red variety contains very high concentrations of ephedrine and caffeine and can be extremely harmful to health...In addition the MHRA have received a report of a female patient suffering respiratory arrest after taking Grenade Fat Burner. The reaction occurred after taking only three tablets. ...Ephedrine is typically listed as ephedrine, ephedra or Ma Huang. In the UK Ephadrine can only be sold or supplied in licensed medicinal products through pharmacies. “
In the Internet age, there is absolutely no reason for people to be taken in by cheap medicines offering quick fixes. If you can find a medicine on-line, you can also find your country’s official health and medicine watchdog, the FDA, MHRA, or whatever. If in doubt, listen to the doctor. And to Dominic Littlewood, of course!
Today’s programme can be found here; grab it while you can, if you can, or watch out for it on YouTube.
More about Fake Britain, Dominic Littlewood, Samantha Pressdee, ephedra, Fda
 
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