Despite the Drug Administration of Viet Nam (DAV) banning medicine containing sibutramine in April because it creates breathing difficulties, a herbal medicine called Lishou containing the substance, can still to be found at some drugstores.
The fat reducing drug, made from herbal ingredients, carries the Good Manufacturing Practices logo, a Ministry of Public Security stamp preventing counterfeit goods, and an import stamp from the Phu Hai Medical Equipment JSC in Ha Noi.
According to its wrapper, the Ministry of Health's Viet Nam Food Administration (VFA) also issued the drug with quality certification.
However, Director of the Phu Hai Medical Equipment JSC Vu Tan Cuong confirmed that Lishou slimming capsules were indeed fake.
"Lishou, which we have imported and distributed, was indeed found to be counterfeit despite its letters, images, logos and stamps," he said.
Lishou was certified not to contain sibutramine by the National Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene Tests, Cuong added.
Last month a pharmacist from a HCM City drugstore told a Tuoi tre (Youth) newspaper reporter that some customers had complained of suffering from breathing difficulties and quickened heartbeats, upon which a product sample was sent off to the HCM City Institute for Drug Testing.
Results revealed that each Lishou capsule contained 24.6mg of the banned substance.
"The amount of banned substance present in each capsule was 240 per cent that of the regulated amount," the pharmacist said.
Associate professor Nguyen Huu Duc, from the HCM City University of Medicine and Pharmacy, said that sibutramine hydroclorid could affect the central nervous system, decreasing appetite and influencing the cardiovascular system.
According to the Viet Nam Pharmacy Dictionary 2007, the substance was previously used in weight loss treatment at dosages of 10-15mg per day. The substance is said to cause increased blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, vertigo and taste disorders. Because of its dangerous effects, the DAV banned all medicine containing the substance from circulation on April 15.
Director of the VFA Nguyen Cong Khan said that the administration had already suspended a number of substandard medicines from circulation and that it would continue its investigations into potentially harmful products. — VNS