By Lucy Osuizigbo
Dr Bamidele Iwalokun, a medical researcher with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in Yaba, Lagos, has called for stiffer regulation of slimming drugs to safeguard the health of consumers.
Iwalokun made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Sunday.
He said there was the need for evidence of safety, effectiveness and approval from drug regulatory agencies in the country before such products are sold or consumed.
”The mechanism of action of these drugs and pills should be known, but people lack this awareness and that is where the concern lies.
”We are now in an era where medicine is evidence-based. So, any medicine without evidence is not worth taking.
”Therefore, the habit of taking slimming drugs without evidence of safety or effectiveness is not a good practice.
”There are various mechanisms through which one can slim, one of which is these drugs which confer slimming benefits with the fact that they have high cellulose content which fills the stomach, thereby taking away appetite for food which can increase body weight.
”This is a good mechanism. Nevertheless, it is important to know the amount of cellulose in the drug because there are some that have the ability of converting slimming to modulating Leptin activity.
”Leptin is a hormone produced by the adipose tissue which signals the brain on when to eat and it works with the energy status of the body.
”Though some fat people have lost this signaling ability of Leptin, but there are also drugs that can correct this loss and reduce their glutton behaviour toward food, thereby restricting dietary intake which is exactly what some of these slimming drugs do.
”Some of these slimming drugs have claims of being able to break down fats, especially those stored in the adipose tissue and abdominal region for those that have central obesity.
”This probably promotes uptake and breakdown of lipids in the liver, thereby reducing body fat content.
”All these are possible mechanisms used by the manufacturers of these drugs to confer their slimming ability, but we want evidence and documentation on safety; mechanism of reaction and efficacy tests carried out on such products, ” he said.
Iwalokun, therefore, urged regulatory agencies to rise up to their mandate by ensuring the authenticity and efficacy of such slimming drugs before they flood the market.
He cited the concerned agencies to include the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control and the Standards Organisation Of Nigeria.
Others he mentioned, include the Federal Institute of Industrial Research and the NIMR.
He also urged the agencies to organise awareness and enlightenment programmes to educate the public on the health risks of consuming unprescribed and unapproved slimming drugs.
According to him, any product that does not meet the required standard should be taken off the market to save lives.