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Saturday, 13 July, 2002, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
China bans liver risk diet pill
Model in Hong Kong
Slimming aids have become increasingly popular in Asia
The Chinese Government has outlawed a controversial diet pill which has been linked to a number of deaths in Asia.

The health ministry in Beijing says it has revoked the licence of the company manufacturing the pill, which contains an ingredient that can cause liver damage.

Andrea de Cruz
Singaporean TV star Andrea de Cruz nearly died
The Chinese news agency said an investigation was ordered in January after the death of a resident of Guangdong province who was using the pill.

Since then, the authorities in Singapore ordered the withdrawal of the pill when a woman died and a number of others needed treatment for liver problems after taking it.

And in Japan on Friday the health ministry issued a warning after a woman died and 11 other pill users developed liver damage.

Banned chemicals

The Chinese ban comes after the pill was analysed and found to contain illegal chemicals, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The drug, which sells in China under the name Yuzhitang, was found to contain an appetite suppressant, fenfluramine.

Fenfluramine has been linked in the US to health problems affecting the heart, thyroid and blood.

The chemical was banned in China in 2000, Xinhua reported.

The news agency said officials began investigating the pills last January after a complaint was made against their manufacturer, Yuzhitang Health Products.

The pills were found to contain another related substance which is also banned.

Despite the ban there are reports that bottles of Yuzhitang are still being sold in some pharmacies and cosmetics shops.

Liver transplant

A version of the pills made by Yuzhitang and sold under the name Slim 10 was banned in Singapore earlier this year after being found to contain fenfluramine.

A Singaporean woman who took Slim 10 died last month after suffering liver failure.

The pill also damaged the health of 20 more, including a prominent TV personality, Andrea De Cruz, who needed a liver transplant from her boyfriend to survive.

Ms De Cruz is now suing the Chinese manufacturer for damages and the cost of a transplant operation.

In Japan a 60-year-old woman died and 11 others developed liver problems in Japan after taking Chinese-made slimming aids which also contained the chemical.

Slimming aids have become increasingly popular in Japan and other Asian countries, where changing diets and lifestyles have led to increasing weight problems and obesity.

See also:

12 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
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