Chinese diet pill casualties mount
TOKYO, Japan -- Imported slimming pills from China are being blamed for at least four deaths and over 150 cases of illness in Japan, with health authorities bracing for a further increase in the number of casualties.
The products have been linked to at least two other deaths in Asia and the latest fatalities have prompted calls for tighter regulation of the booming diet aids and herbal supplements industry.
Slimming pills have a big market in Japan and most of the victims are believed to have ordered the products over the Internet, local media reported on the weekend.
On Saturday, Japan's health ministry confirmed there had been four deaths, and 160 illnesses from the drugs, most of them women.
Almost half have been hospitalized with liver or thyroid problems, Japan's Kyodo news agency said.
One of the diet pills, "Sennomoto-kono" was found to contain thyroid gland components as well as the appetite suppressant, fenfluramine.
Fenfluramine was banned in the United States five years ago after evidence showed it could damage heart valves when consumed with other slimming agents, Reuters news agency reported.
'Slim 10,' manufactured by Chinese company Yuzhitang Health Products, was found to contain similar substances and banned in Singapore earlier this year.
Even so, the pills were suspected in the death of a 43-year old woman in the city-state a month later, the Associated Press reported, while another woman, television host Andre De Cruz, almost died of liver failure. She survived only after her boyfriend donated part of his liver.
Since then, Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency has reported one death linked to Yuzhitang's slimming pills and Beijing has banned the product.
The slimming pills made headlines in Japan earlier this month when the health ministry announced that a 60-year-old-woman had died and a dozen others were suffering liver disorders after taking the products.
Officials said they found traces of a thyrotropic hormone and an appetite-suppressant anorectic that were not listed on the labeling. Both are drugs that should require prescription.
Yet, despite a massive publicity campaign, there were fears that the pills were still being purchased via Web sites.
Japan's Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry released the name of the Yuzhitang diet aid along with another product, Xinazhisu to warn users, in particular those that purchased the product over the Internet.
However, the manufacturer of Xinazhisu has claimed that the product linked to the illnesses and identified in news reports is an imitation.
In a message on its Web site, the manufacturer said that the packaging design of the product named in Japanese news reports is different from the product it produces, the Kyodo news agency reported.
The company, based in Huizhou, Guangdong Province in southeastern China, also said that its product did not contain fenfluramine and denied that any users had developed liver complications from its pills.
Chinese diet pills linked to death
July 20, 2002
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
WORLD TOP STORIES:
|Back to the top|