Drug regulators say both substances used by keep-fit fans and slimmers have “considerable potential to cause harm” if taken without medical supervision. They can trigger agitation, aggression and raised heart rate and blood pressure. High doses can damage the heart and kidneys and cause heart attacks and strokes. Which? said the pills’ easy availability on eBay, Wish and AliExpress, demonstrates why online marketplaces should be forced to improve product safety.
Sue Davies, head of consumer protection policy, said: “The limited regulation of these sites is not working – and that’s leaving people exposed. Online marketplaces must be given greater legal responsibility for the safety of products they sell.”
She said regulators should also police the web more thoroughly. Which? found that eBay, Wish and AliExpress had at least a dozen supplements displayed with yohimbine, taken from tree bark, and synephrine, which is extracted from oranges.
Neither are meant to be used without supervision and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency say both can have “considerable potential to cause harm”.
But the consumer investigators were able to take delivery of nine items containing either extract – three from each website – including two with no health warnings or dosage information.
Poisons expert Dr James Coulson said: “The critical effects we are concerned about is their effect on the sympathetic nervous system and particularly their effect on blood pressure.
“If you’d taken a lot of it you’d then start to see the effects of secondary organ damage.”
AliExpress and eBay said they had removed the product listings found by Which?, while Wish said it was in the process of doing it.