Weight-loss clinics are handing out dangerous slimming drugs with lethal side effects
By Sophie Borland
Last updated at 12:09 AM on 7th February 2012
Josie Lofthouse suffered severe palpitations, breathlessness and insomnia after taking slimming pills given to her by a doctor
Patients are being put at risk by doctors selling them potentially dangerous weight-loss pills at private slimming clinics.
A number of centres in England were found to be handing out drugs which could have lethal side effects, a health watchdog has revealed.
Two of the drugs routinely being given to patients – phentermine and diethylpropion – are similar to amphetamines and were banned from this country in 2000 over fears they caused heart disease.
Both were subsequently reinstated following legal action by the manufacturer.
But due to serious safety concerns, they are not used on the NHS and private doctors are strongly advised not to prescribe them.
But in the last two months the Care Quality Commission has found six private clinics handing out the drugs without warning of the dangers.
In some cases doctors had not even bothered to check patients’ blood pressure beforehand, even though the pills have been linked to heart problems.
The watchdog is concerned that many other private clinics across the country are handing out the pills.
There are about 80 registered private slimming clinics run by doctors in England, part of a diet industry worth a total of £2billion.
Some centres charge initial ‘registration costs’ of £20, followed by monthly fees of £80 which cover regular consultations with doctors who advise on diet plans and slimming pills.
Inspectors said there was no evidence patients had their blood pressure or weight recorded before being given phentermine and diethylpropion. The clinic has since been shut down.
Phentermine was one of the drugs regularly given to patients despite being banned in 2000 over fears they caused heart disease
New Leaf Health in Leeds, and Dr Anthony Adam Schiff in Newbury, Berkshire, were found to be handing out potentially dangerous drugs and given warning notices.
The CQC says it has ‘major concerns’ with three other clinics.
A spokesman said: ‘We would urge anyone who has concerns about medicines that they’ve been prescribed or information they’ve been given by a slimming clinic to contact their GP – but also to tell CQC.’
Josy Lofthouse suffered palpitations, breathlessness and insomnia after taking slimming pills given to her by a private clinic.
She said a doctor took her blood pressure, height and weight and she was given a month’s supply and told ‘almost as an afterthought, that they might make me feel depressed’.
The 5ft mother of two, from Barnet, North London, took them as she was desperate to slim from a size 16 to a 12.
Mrs Lofthouse, 52, said: ‘I became hyperactive and a raging insomniac. I learned afterwards that the drugs were amphetamine-based, like those taken illegally by young ravers who want to party all night without getting tired.
‘Worst of all, I developed terrifying and constant heart palpitations that I couldn’t control. By the end of the first week on the tablets I’d lost a few pounds, but I was too frightened to continue.’
She subsequently managed to drop several dress sizes by eating sensibly and working out.