Weight loss: beware of buying unregulated products online

8 April 2016
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We understand that losing weight can be difficult. Weight loss products that promise quick and easy results may seem like an attractive option, but buying unregulated products online from overseas can cause you to seriously risk your health, lose your money and possibly break the law.

illustration of miracle cure container Be cautious about what you are buying and who you are buying from. Be suspicious of wild claims, especially "guaranteed results" or "fast acting".

Often these products are marketed as 'herbal' or ‘natural’ weight loss tablets or capsules. However, analysis in our laboratories has found some products contain hidden ingredients that can cause harm to your health. For example:

  • Sibutramine - a prescription-only substance in Australia. Sibutramine was withdrawn from world markets in 2010 due to increased risk of cardiac events and stroke.
  • Phenolphthalein - it was withdrawn from sale on many markets in the late 1990's due to concerns that it may cause cancer with long term use.

They can also include other undisclosed ingredients, heavy metals or contaminants resulting from poor manufacturing processes.

If you are going to buy weight loss products online, consider these questions:

  • Did you receive an appropriate consultation by a qualified medical professional?
  • Has the product been evaluated by the TGA for safety, quality and efficacy? Is it on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods?
  • If I suffer an adverse reaction, am I able to again consult with the medical professional?

What should I do if I’ve purchased a weight loss product from overseas?

If you’ve taken a product that has been issued a safety alert, stop taking it immediately and take any remaining product to your local pharmacy for safe disposal.

If you have any concerns, consult a health professional.

Keep an eye on our safety alerts, where we publish information about products known to be potentially dangerous.

What action is the TGA taking?

We work closely with the Australian Border Force (ABF) to help stop shipments of products which are known to be potentially dangerous and to sample and identify suspect products so future shipments cannot enter Australia.

If these products are found at the border by the ABF they will be seized and destroyed.

Be cautious about what you are buying and who you are buying from. Be suspicious of wild claims, especially "guaranteed results" or "fast acting".

Counterfeit medicines and medical devices

Find out more about the dangers of buying fake medicines and devices.