Tue, Jun 19, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Unapproved weight-loss drug still available online

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Department of Health confirmed yesterday that Alli (歐樂), an over-the-counter weight-loss drug recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has not been approved by the department and it is thus illegal to sell or market it in Taiwan.

"The drug cannot be sold in Taiwan because it has not yet received approval," said Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs Director Liao Chi-chou (廖繼洲) in a telephone conversation with the Taipei Times yesterday.

US APPROVAL

Alli, also known as Orlistat, is marketed by British pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline. It was granted over-the-counter status by the FDA in February and became officially available in US pharmacies and drug stores last Thursday.

The drug works by preventing dietary fat from being absorbed. The consumption of Alli, however, may result in side effects such as diarrhea.

A bottle with 90 capsules of Alli retails for about US$60 before tax in the US.

While the government has yet to approve its use in Taiwan, it is possible to buy a package of Alli containing 150 capsules on Yahoo-Kimo's Internet auction site for NT$4,599.

The sellers claimed the order would be delivered by airmail within a week.

TAIWANESE LAW

By law, the manufacturers of imported drugs must first apply for approval and have the drugs inspected by health department officials. They can receive a permit to sell after the drugs have passed evaluation.

Those selling unapproved drugs in Taiwan do so in violation of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (藥事法).

Violators face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to NT$10 million (US$30,300).

The drugs can also be confiscated by authorities.

Drugs purchased for personal use have been exempted from the restrictions.

Individuals found selling unapproved drugs online, on the other hand, could be fined between NT$200,000 and NT$5 million.

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