Medical practitioners are warning South African consumers against popular weight-loss product "The Secret Fat Burner", also known as "The Secret" – as it has landed a number of people in hospital.
The product promises to help you lose weight without the need to go to the gym or diet. "You'll lose 2-4kg in the first week, and your food cravings will be suppresed," according to SA Camera.
However, SEMDSA – the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa – recently sent a letter to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), asking them to attend to this issue as a matter of urgency – as SEMDSA believes there are potentially life-threatening complications that may arise as a consequence of this product.
Patients who had used this product presented with features of an overactive thyroid (thyrotoxicosis). Other features of an overactive thyroid include palpitations, anxiety, heat intolerance, aggravation of hypertension, and cardiac complications such as atrial fibrillation and – scariest of all – cardiac failure.
Lab tests done by SEMDSA found that the capsules contained hydrochlorothiazide, sibutramine, levothyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) — substances that aren't mentioned in the product's information leaflet. Additionally, sibutramine is no longer registered for use in South Africa, the organisation pointed out.
If patients stop using the product, their the thyroid function may normalise – although patients with cardiac complications may require specific therapy by a specialist.
SEMDSA warned that anyone who prescribes this product violates the following laws:
- Consumer Protection Act (CPA), 2008
According to the CPA, product labelling must be accurate and truthful. No secret ingredients and ratios are to be included in products. Further, all in the supply chain are liable for any harm that may befall a patient, for up to three years after taking a product.
- The Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1965
"The Secret Fat Burner" should be registered as a medicine, yet it is not – and as such it is unlawfully on the market, and such unlawful presence constitutes a criminal offence under the act.
- Health Professions Act, 1974
In terms of ethical rule 19 of the 2006 HPCSA Ethical Rules, the use of secret remedies is prohibited. The prescription or recommendation of such products could render the doctor open to disciplinary action by the HPCSA, which could result in a blemished professional record and/or suspension of the medical practitioner.
Other questionable issues
- The product has no website.
It is marketed through SA Camera and Vanitize — which sell a number of weight-loss products.
- It is not readily available at any shops
You need to get in contact with one of its agents if you wants to get your hands on the product, or order it online.
- The founders/makers are not known.
According to the anonymous author of SA Camera, the founders prefer to "remain anonymous" – and for this reason, they cannot be directly contacted.
- The leaflet does not give accurate information about substances in the product.
This was raised by SEMDSA. The leaflet indicates neither the company name or location, nor whether it has been approved by SAHPRA. The list of ingredients is incomplete, and those left out are dangerous.
- Fake "secret burn" products.
There are claims that there are fake versions of the product in circulation, which may be responsible for some of the more severe side-effects.