Beware slimming, enhancing drugs, govt warns

06Mar 2016
Aisia Rweyemamu
Guardian On Sunday
Beware slimming, enhancing drugs, govt warns
  • They are not approved and can harm users

BERTHA, a Kiwalani resident on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, was very worried. She had a genuine reason to be because her boyfriend Erick (not his real name) was threatening to dump her unless she shaped up by losing weight.

Minister of the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ummy Mwalimu

She said Erick fancied slim girls, but she was getting plump owing to, ironically, the good life he was giving her. So, something had to be done to save her relationship, and be done fast.

That is when she contacted her friend, Mwanaidi, who lives in Sinza, another city suburb. Mwanaidi laughed off her friend’s worries, assuring her that her worries were as good as over. Hadn’t she heard about the wonder slimming drugs yet?

However, after Bertha had taken several doses of the ‘wonder’ drug she was disappointed that it wasn’t working as fast as she had hoped, and Erick was getting impatient.

After several weeks of experimenting with the drug, it dawned on her that she had been taken for a ride. And what an expensive ride! Luckily for her, Erick later recanted dropping her, telling her, “Tumetoka mbali na wewe switi.”

Other girls may not be as lucky as Bertha was. People anxious to lose weight have been cautioned against ‘experts’ visiting homes or advertising their wares in tabloids to canvass for customers and promising them of immediate and sure results.

Government authorities say such people are charlatans out to make a fast buck from unsuspecting but desperate people who, for one reason or another, would like to lose weight fast without having to go through a regime of punishing exercises, as others do at gyms or during their spare time at home.

The official agency charged with overseeing the use and trading in drugs, Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) is categorical that none of the so-called experts roaming the streets looking for clients has ever tendered their drugs and other medicines to them for testing, verification and subsequent authorisation for use in the country.

“These people who claim to offer such wonder drugs lack both professionalism and honesty, putting human health at risk,” a TFDA official told this writer recently in an interview.

But the crafty lie is not confined to fast slimming; it also involves other areas such as ‘wonder drugs’ to boost the bust for women; medicines to lose gray hair for both men and women; drugs to improve erectile function for men, etc, etc.

Thus, according to the TFDA official, the majority of adverts on social media networks and local Swahili tabloids, with some glued on trees and walls along the road sides, will soon face the wrath of the law.

The official said such slimming drugs posted on Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and different blogs are not recommended for body reshaping through burning of body fat and calories to result in the loss of weight.

Dr Francis Didas, a consultant at Cloud9 Wellness Clinic, told the Guardian on Sunday that no medical studies had yet proved that one could change their body and its parts by using drugs.

Interviewed professionals said the efficacy of such drugs was neither certified, nor were the ingredients established.

They added that even the doses prescribed were equally a matter of guesswork, warning that the use of such drugs could lead to heart attack, blood pressure, rapid heartbeats, liver and kidney complications.

“Such a reaction can happen over time and the users might not even be able to associate the side-effects with their indiscriminate use of such drugs,” Dr Didas clarified.

He said, for instance, that after slimming drugs had been administered, diarrheoa might soon follow.
“People are made to believe that diarrheoa enhanced discharge of body fats with subsequent loss of weight, which is entirely not true,” he noted.

“No research has ever establishing that diarrheoa can remove fats from the body. Such slimming drugs have been forbidden in some developing countries because of their serious negative impact on human health,” he added.

The medical professional added that the best way to lose weight was through physical exercises with a controlled diet, in addition to medically advised supplements.

However, the social media is awash with advertisements and online sale of such products claiming to reduce the belly, body fats and others like enlarging hips and other body organs at very high cost, both financially and healthwise.

The charlatans display luring prices of their products, promising prompt results. For example, a gel tube for hips enlargement is sold at between Sh200,000 and Sh100,000 while drugs for elongating or thickening the male sexual organ go for Sh100,000 per dose.

Fat control drugs fetch Sh80,000 per dose while those for removing a potbelly attract Sh90,000 and those for banishing gray hair can be acquired for Sh100,000.

Those keen on enlarging their sex organs should be ready to part with Sh100,000; drugs for shapely legs sell for Sh100,000 and anti-wrinkles drugs go for Sh80,000.

Surprisingly, and this is what dupes most people into having unshakable confidence in the efficacy of the wares on sale, dealers and their run their business with no qualms whatsoever, insisting that the quality of their products had been certified by TFDA.

However, TFDA has strongly denied ever having certified such drugs, insisting that it was yet to issue any approval for any of the drugs being peddled.

TFDA Public Relations Officer Gaudensia Simwanza told this paper that the Authority had never issued any certificate for any of the drugs, stressing that users ran very serious health risks.

“The drugs are unsafe and the Authority is working on the modalities to book salespeople and their agents who continue to put people’s health at risk.

They want to make profits at the expense of other people’s health,” Simwanza explained.
Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ummy Mwalimu confirmed to the Guardian on Sunday that the Authority was yet to authorize a single drug commendable for body configuration.

“The public should avoid the use of such chemicals in order to protect themselves from other effects brought by the use of prohibited drugs. Despite the fact that most of them operate online to complicate their arrest, we will definitely get them and bring them to justice. Let the general public assist on this,” Ummy insisted.

Meanwhile, two dealers identified as Farida and Celestine, were adamant in a telephone interview that the safety of their products was certified, adding that the booming business had earned them a good life. They said that they got their supplies from Dubai and insisted that they had no plans to abandon the business.

“I embarked on this business three years ago and my clients always look for me after they have been satisfied with the way my drugs work. This business is superb.

I pay school fees for my children and lately I managed to buy a car worth Sh12m. Now I am planning to build a house. The clients are many and there is no need for you to worry about the safety of our products,” Farida proudly said.