The Ministry of Public Health has found a new weight-loss drug in samples of dietary supplements, sparking fears of potential abuse.
The weight-loss drug -- Lorcaserin -- which is not regulated under Thai law, was found in samples of dietary supplements tested by the Department of Medical Sciences.
Opas Karnkawinpong, the department's director-general, said it was the first time Lorcaserin, an appetite suppressant, had been found in dietary supplements in Thailand.
People taking Lorcaserin require close supervision by doctors, especially those with renal problems. Any unsupervised use can cause side effects such as headaches, dizziness, and cardiovascular problems, Dr Opas said.
According to Dr Opas, Lorcaserin is prescribed in the US but it is not regulated under Thai law. In the US, it is placed under the "Schedule IV" category, which covers drugs with a low potential for abuse and low potential for dependence.
"It is likely the drug is being used to replace sibutramine, another weight-loss drug where there have been fears of possible abuse. Hence, the department will alert the authorities to take appropriate action," he told the media in a press briefing on Friday.
The department discovered the drug when it was asked to test dietary supplements for sibutramine by the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Protection Police Division (CPPD), he said. The FDA sent 180 white capsules while the CPPD submitted more than 70kg of white, black and brown powder for testing.
Previously, sibutramine was widely found in dietary supplements in Thailand until it was outlawed last year.
The move came after the death of a 31-year-old woman in Kanchanaburi who died of an acute heart attack after taking weight-loss pills which contained sibutramine.
The Ministry of Public Health last year decided to place sibutramine on the list of Category 1 narcotics because it is known to cause a number of serious side effects, including stomach problems.
The FDA bans the import and export of products which make use of sibutramine. Those who violate this law face up to 20 years in jail and/or face a maximum fine of two million baht.