The Ministry of Heath on Monday ordered pharmacies to halt the sale of unapproved diet pill Mazeta Slim, a purportedly American drug that the ministry said actually likely originates in China.
In a statement from Health Minister Mam Bunheng, the Kingdom’s pharmacies are advised under threat of the law to stop sale of Mazeta Slim, produced by Greatwallbuy International Trading Co, Ltd, whose listed address is a house in a California suburb.
While the pills’ packaging – complete with an American flag – suggests the product was made in the USA, inspection by officials revealed the distributer is based in Hong Kong, according to ministry secretary of state Chou Yinsim, who also said the product can be purchased online.
Online ads can be easily found touting the product at $18 a package, as can additional addresses for the producer listed in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China.
Yinsim said that the ban on sale was issued because “we are afraid of [Mazeta Slim] harming the user’s health”.
“We are still searching for this medicine throughout the provinces,” he continued, although he could not say how much of the product was on the market.
The ministry released a warning letter the same day to Phsar Tapang pharmacy – in the capital’s Phsar Thmey I commune – which was found carrying the supplement, saying it would be shut down if the pills were found there a second time.
A Phsar Tapang pharmacist, who declined to be named, said it was the ministry’s responsibility to crack down on importers, and that his pharmacy had been unfairly singled out and “fined a lot of money”.
“The Ministry of Health should take action on the medicine importer,” he said, adding that the weight loss supplement “was not only sold in my pharmacy; other pharmacies also sell it”.
What’s more, according to the pharmacist, Mazeta Slim is an “effective and popular medicine, as well as a best seller”.
Indeed, a box of the “Best Weight Loss product” was easily acquired for $7 at a pharmacy on another major boulevard whose pharmacist, while aware of the ban, happily defended the sale.
“That medicine is not harmful to the user, so we can sell it; this medicine is one of the popular slimming products in my pharmacy,” she said, adding that “if registered, the product would be more expensive and would be hard to sell out”.
“[The ministry] is trying to get them [Mazeta Slim] to register for their own benefit,” she said, adding that Mazeta Slim remains readily available from distributors.
According to pills’ packaging, the ingredients are all natural, ranging from household herbs, such as tarragon; to a naturally derived diuretic, Job’s tears; to psyllium, an appetite suppressant capable of causing swelling of the throat, though only in high doses.
Yim Yann, honorary president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Cambodia said that while it is the ministry’s duty to issue such a ban, “pharmacists should have the morality to follow the ministry’s order . . . to avoid any harm to user[s]” and that drug importers often avoid registration for their own benefit.