Sibutramine users to face jail terms under amended rules

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Bangkok – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that Sibutramine, a substance found in some weight-loss products and food supplements, has been reclassified as a Schedule 1 psychotropic substance, with the heaviest penalties for not only producers and sellers but also users.

The FDA has released a statement, saying users of products containing this substance will face a jail term up to three years or a fine up to 60,000 baht or both.

Producers, importers or exporters of the products containing the substance will face a jail term of 5-20 years and a fine from 500,000 to two million baht.

The statement says sellers of the products containing it are subjected to imprisonment of four to 20 years and a fine from 400,000 to two million baht.

The FDA Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. Poonlarp Chanthavichitwong, said sibutramine works as an appetite suppressant by altering neurotransmitters within the brain and the FDA has still found it in some weight-loss products and food supplements sold in the Thai market.

Due to its fatal side effects on those with heart and coronary conditions, European countries banned it in 1990. In Thailand, it was banned in 2010.

However, the substance is still found in the Thai market, prompting the FDA to reclassify it in the most dangerous group.

Dr. Poonlarp warned food supplements could not help people lose weight. An advertisement that a food supplement can cure diseases, help people lose weight or have medicinal properties should be viewed with suspicions as they may contain medicines, which means users can suffer from the side effects, which can be fatal, he said.

He urged consumers who have seen such products sold to contact the FDA through its 1556 hotline or Oryor Smart mobile app.

Schedule 1 psychotropic substances are those that have the least medicinal properties but are most prone to abuse. They carry the heaviest penalties among all four schedules. Others in this schedule include cathinone, etryptamine, mescaline, methcathinone, psilocin, psilocybin, dihydrogen phosphate and tetrahydrocannabinol.