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Weight-loss drug plant raided after woman dies

Weight-loss drug plant raided after woman dies

Authorities have raided a factory that produced weight-loss capsules linked to the death of an Ang Thong woman who ordered them online. More than one million fake weight-loss capsules were seized and the factory owner was arrested.

The owner has admitted the capsules did not have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, but she also alleged that an official of the Office of Consumer Protection was involved in the racket.

A team of police, soldiers and officials, armed with a court warrant, searched the house in Na Mon district on Saturday morning. Wasapassorn Sulamnart, 52, claiming to be the owner, was inside the house, where a sign with the company name, D.D. Cosmed Co, was seen.

Investigators, led by Kalasin police chief Thinnarat Phetphansri, found some drug powder containing sibutramine, which is banned by the FDA, along with gelatin capsules and packaging.

Officers then raided two warehouses about two kilometres from the house, and found drug powder imported from China, more than 1 million weight-loss capsules, cardboard boxes and other items.

Pol Maj Gen Thinnarat said the raid followed the death of a 30-year-old woman in Ang Thong after taking weight-loss pills that she had ordered online.

A subsequent police investigation shed light on the company in Kalasin, where the victim had ordered the drugs, he said.

Police said Ms Wasapassorn told them that her factory had FDA approval to produce food supplements. Her daughter was a pharmacist but her licence had been revoked, the woman added.

She admitted the seized weight-loss drugs were not approved, according to investigators. But she claimed that a senior official attached to the Office of Consumer Production supplied the drug powder used in the capsules. She had to pay the official 20,000 baht a month, she said.

Ms Wasapassorn has been charged with producing and selling drugs without permission, along with producing and selling fake food supplements.

Unapproved or just plain fake weight-loss products have become a public-health menace in Thailand in recent years, with online sales particularly difficult to police.

Many weight-loss preparations contain the banned appetite suppressant sibutramine, and this week authorities reported the discovery of a new substance that they believe is emerging as a substitute for sibutramine. They say that Lorcaserin also has potentially harmful side effects but is not yet regulated in Thailand.