Diet pills that could trigger ‘heart attacks and strokes’ sold on eBay, report warns

DIET pills that could trigger serious health problems like heart attacks and strokes are being sold through online retailers like eBay, Wish and AliExpress, a report has revealed.

An investigation by which? found that diet pills and workout enhancement supplements contain substances that regulators say can cause “serious harm” if not taken under supervision.


Diet pills and workout enhancers are sold on popular online retailers such as eBayCredit: Getty

These substances are yohimbine and synephrine, which are known to cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.

Yohimbine is banned for sale in the UK, except when sold by a pharmacist – but it is not a substance that is routinely available on prescription.

The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said these products could have “considerable potential to cause harm if used without medical supervision or advice.”

These substances, if taken without advice, can also lead to problems such as strokes, heart attacks and kidney damage.

Despite warnings from the MHRA, Which? investigators were able to purchase these products from online retailers – some products not even having dosage advice.

Additional information obtained by Which? showed that some customers who had purchased certain supplements experienced serious side effects.

One said he was not feeling well and was considering going to the hospital, while others said they had been sweating uncontrollably and had also suffered from arterial hypertension.

Dr James Coulson, a member of the UK toxicology committee, told Which? that the substances can cause significant harm.

He said: “With regard to these drugs, the critical effects that concern us are their effect on the sympathetic nervous system and in particular their effect on blood pressure” and “if you had taken a lot of them then you would start to see the effects of secondary organ damage.


As part of its investigation, Which? was able to obtain nine products from retailers.

They found that two of them did not carry any health warnings or dosage information.

Only one had the yohimbine name clearly stated on the outer packaging.

In response to the investigation, eBay and AliExpress said they have removed the products, and Wish said they are in the process of removing them.

Retailers have said they will remove the list of both ingredients as they come up – this means the consumer must do their due diligence – rather than the retailer and fail to offer protection to consumers and their family. health.

It also means that retailers rely on organizations such as Which? and consumers in general to spot the ads.


Such supplements, which ones? found, costs £ 2.39 to £ 80, plus postage.

They were shipped from India, USA, Ukraine, and Poland, with some even offering free shipping.

As part of the investigation, it was also found that there had been six reports of “suspected adverse drug reactions” to yohimbine and two reports of “suspected adverse drug reactions” to synephrine, through of the MHRA yellow card program.

What are Yohimbine and Synephrine?

Both yohimbine and synephrine are substances extracted from certain herbs.

Once extracted, they can be used as ingredients in diet pills and pre-workout supplements.

Yohimbine is derived from the bark of a tree found in parts of Africa and is traditionally used as a male aphrodisiac, as well as being marketed as a weight loss supplement.

Synephrine is a pharmacologically active substance derived from bitter orange extract.

The regulation of synephrine is more complicated than that of yohimbine.

The MHRA assesses individual products containing the ingredient on a case-by-case basis.

Because it can cause physiological effects, synephrine would also normally be considered a prescription-only medicine, according to the MHRA, which subjects it to strict controls for quality, safety and efficacy.

These ingredients are not always limited in other countries.

Are they dangerous?

Dr James Coulson, an expert in toxicology, said both substances are dangerous.

Speaking to Which ?, he said he had previously treated patients who had had complications from taking yohimbine and had dealt with reports of complications resulting from the use of synephrine through the National Poisons Information Service. .

Symptoms to look out for after taking these substances:

  • commotion
  • aggression
  • nausea
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure

Source: which one?

Sue Davies, which one? head of consumer protection policy said the findings were “concerning”

She said: “The limited regulation of these sites doesn’t work – and that leaves people exposed to substances that can be harmful.

“Online marketplaces need to be given greater legal responsibility for the safety of products sold on their sites, so that buyers are much better protected.

“Regulators also need to be more proactive in monitoring potentially dangerous products offered for sale on these sites, which are becoming increasingly popular places to shop.”

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