We have put together a list of answers to some common questions that we have received on illegal health products. This FAQ list is also a good starting point for you to learn more about these products, their harmful effects, and how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe from them.
What are illegal health products?
They are health products which have not been authorised for sale in Singapore.
They may include:
- Adulterated health product : One that contains undeclared chemical substances
- Counterfeit or fake product : One that is presented in a manner to disguise and pass off as another registered health product
- Unregistered health product : One that has not been approved for sale in Singapore
What are some common features of illegal health products?
Source of Supply : Illegal health products are often obtained through dubious channels such as makeshift stalls in back alleys of red light districts, peddlers who loiter around coffee shops or hawker centres, unsolicited spam mails, over Internet websites, discussion forums, web-blogs and auction sites.
Cost : Illegal health products may be offered at low and affordable prices, much cheaper than the real products in order to entice buyers.
Product Packaging : With the advancement in modern printing technology, it may be a challenge to identify an illegal health product merely by its physical appearance. They may look similar to the genuine prescription drugs obtained from legitimate clinics or pharmacies but are found to be counterfeits. Others claim to be “100% natural” or “100% herbal”, but are found to be adulterated.
In general, consumers should not rely on the product's packaging to ascertain if a product is illegal, since such products can be presented in all sorts and forms. The product safety and quality cannot be ascertained by looking at the packaging. The best way for consumers to avoid subjecting themselves to unnecessary health risks would be to strictly refrain from buying these products from dubious sources.
What are the dangers of taking illegal health products?
Illegal health products are dangerous and harmful to health because they are made under poor manufacturing conditions with no proper quality controls or professional oversight.
Often illegal health products may be contaminated or deliberately adulterated and may bring about harmful side effects such as death, coma, seizure, stroke and worsening of existing medical conditions in susceptible patients. They may contain undeclared chemical substances (e.g. prescription drugs which have to be taken under close medical supervision), too much, too little active ingredients, no active ingredients or even wrong active ingredients that can disrupt medical therapy.
Despite the fact that you have taken this product previously without much problems, there exists a risk that the illegal health product that you are currently taking may contain dangerous content that can cost your life this time round because the safety, quality and efficacy of the products cannot be consistently guaranteed and may vary from batch to batch, box to box or even pill to pill!
So, do not take this risk. Do not gamble with your life.
How can I protect myself from illegal health products?
- Do not buy or consume ANY illegal health products obtained from dubious sources.
- Examples of dubious sources may include makeshift stalls in back alleys of red light districts, peddlers who loiter around coffee shops or hawker centres carrying plastic bags or backpacks containing these products, unsolicited spam mails or over Internet websites, discussion forums, web-blogs and auction sites.
- Do seek professional medical advice if you have other concurrent medical conditions and decide to self-medicate.
- Do buy your medicines from legitimate sources eg. licensed clinics and pharmacies.
- Do beware of health products that promise miraculous cures, or those that are exaggerated, unrealistic or “too good to be true”. Think twice about taking a product for “quick cures”, even if the claims make reference to “research studies” that may not be scientifically founded.
What should I do if I have taken a health product which I suspect to be illegal?
- Stop taking the product immediately
- Do seek professional medical advice if you are in doubt or if you feel unwell.
You are also encouraged to report the incident to your healthcare professional, as well as HSA at Tel: 68663485 or email: HSA_IS@hsa.gov.sg.
Can I find a list of all the illegal health products that have been found in Singapore?
HSA understands that some consumers or healthcare professionals may wish to obtain more information on illegal health products. As such, please click here for a list of illegal health products detected and tested by HSA to date.
What is HSA doing to keep the threat of illegal health products under control in Singapore?
HSA continues to exercise high vigilance to protect the public against illegal health products. We adopt a multi-pronged approach built upon risk-management concepts and targeted strategies to tackle this issue. These include:
- On-going surveillance efforts and enforcement activities
- Protection of the legitimate pharmaceutical supply chain to ensure a consistent and trusted supply of medicines if consumers keep within the legitimate healthcare system
- Information exchange, communications, collaboration and surveillance/enforcement initiatives with local and overseas counterparts including those in the healthcare industry, regulatory agencies, national laboratories, enforcement agencies and the media
- Public alerts and advisories with support of the media
- Public education targeted at at-risk groups
What are the penalties for those who import and/or sell health products illegally?
Illegal health products usually contain ingredients that are controlled under the medicines’ laws.
For activities involving illegal health products, such as import or sale, offenders may be liable for prosecution under the Medicines Act and/or the Poisons Act.
Such offences are tenable to a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and/or fined up to $10,000 for each offence under the Poisons Act, or $5,000 for each offence under the Medicines Act.
How can I contact HSA if I would like to make a report on the illegal sale of health products?
To report any illegal sale of health products, please contact:
Health Products Regulation Group
Health Sciences Authority
Tel: 6866 3485
Fax: 6478 9065
Address: 11 Biopolis Way, #11-03, Helios, Singapore 138667