Deadly Secret Fat Burner product: lose weight & maybe your life
Secret Fat Burner‚ a weight-loss product available on the Internet‚ contains the illegal ingredient sibutramine and has been linked to a number of South Africans being hospitalised with heart problems or other severe conditions.
The Society for Endocrinology‚ Metabolism and Diabetes (SEMDSA) in South Africa had the Secret Fat Burner product tested after realising multiple patients‚ who were hospitalised‚ also used it.
They have used a media release to warn that the product‚ nicknamed “The Secret”‚ can cause life-threatening complications. Online websites selling the capsules and shakes promise weight loss of two to four kilograms in a week without dieting or exercise.
The distributors of the product are kept a secret but have been embroiled in their own scandals saying counterfeits‚ in almost identical packaging‚ have been sold.
The owners call themselves "The Secret Team" and warn people not to buy their product for anything less than R640‚ saying that anything cheaper is fake. SEMDSA‚ which represents endocrinologists‚ figured out the product was problematic. It noticed a spike in patients with high levels of thyroid hormones or "thyrotoxicosis".
Thyrotoxicosis can cause symptoms of fever‚ anxiety‚ an intolerance to heat‚ heart palpitations and atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat) and even heart attacks. SEMDSA head Dr Nazeer Mohamed said: "The spate of thyrotoxicosis wasn't making any sense."
This condition shows up on blood tests and is usually caused by an overactive thyroid gland. Patients don't usually volunteer the information of what over-the-counter remedies‚ herbal medicine or weight loss pills they are taking with doctors.
But doctors trying to work out why patients‚ some who landed up in hospital‚ had a spike in their thyroid hormone asked questions and the Secret Fat Burner emerged as the culprit. Doctors shared this anecdotally among themselves and realised there was a trend.
"There are many products that have previously had banned substances. This was first time it seemed to be same product repeatedly at fault‚" said Mohamed. Mohamed said at least six endocrinologists in Johannesburg had reported seeing more than one patient who developed complications and were using this weight loss product‚ nicknamed “The Secret”.
One of his patients using the secret was hospitalised with a blood clot in her lung. She also had too much thyroid hormone as detected by blood tests but he said he couldn't prove it was definitely the product causing the clot and hospitalisation.
"There have been patients who have been hospitalised. The difficulty is to prove the product in isolation causes cardiac symptoms‚ whether [taking the drug] was a tipping point in someone with a predisposition to cardiac problems."
The society tested it at a laboratory and discovered the Secret Fat Burner has four ingredients not on the label in breach of the Consumer Protection Act.
The test results found that the capsules contained hydrochlorothiazide‚ sibutramine‚ levothryroxine and triiodothyronine.
The society has twice contacted the Medicines Control Council ‚ now called the SA Health Product Regulatory Authority‚ asking them to take action.
To his knowledge the society has received no response. Doctors have been asked by the society to tell patients about the product.
"We wish to bring to your attention that‚ should you prescribe this product‚ the following laws would be violated‚ and that you expose yourself to legal liability‚ and your patients to harm. In order to avoid being liable‚ you'd be able to show that you have taken steps to prevent or lessen any harm."