'Fake weight loss pills' nabbed in Netanya

Police warned Thursday that they may have uncovered at least one Netanya pharmacy marketing fake weight-loss medications - medicine that may not only have failed to diminish the patients' girth, but could also have had dangerous effects on patients' blood pressure. Late Wednesday evening, the National Unit for Intellectual Property detained two Netanya pharmacy owners after detectives searching their store found hundreds of pills believed to be falsely labeled as Xenical, the best-selling weight-loss drug marketed by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche. Following the search, police said they suspected that the pills were not only fake, but might contain active ingredients used in the weight-loss medication Reductil. Although both Xenical and Reductil are meant to control obesity, the former blocks fats from being absorbed through the intestines, while the latter is a more traditional appetite suppressant that affects neurotransmitters in the brain. The ingredients in the fake pills - and also in Reductil - can raise patients' pulse and blood pressure, posing a danger to patients already suffering from high blood pressure. For this reason, Reductil patients must be monitored by doctors. Police opened the investigation after receiving a complaint from a Roche representative. The company said it had received pills from a patient who suspected that they were not really Xenical. The suspect pills seized in Netanya were in a blister pack stamped with the number B2306 - a serial number that was never legally imported into Israel. In addition, detectives said, the medication was not packaged in the proper carton for marketing in Israel, and did not come with the information page legally required for every medicine sold in the country. The pills have been sent to Health Ministry labs for chemical analysis, and to determine whether, if they were fake, they contained dangerous substances or simply did not contain the active ingredients of the original. The pharmacy owners, aged 56 and 68, were detained for questioning. During the search of the pharmacy, the older of the two suspects became unwell and was taken for treatment to Netanya's Laniado Hospital. The second suspect was arrested and released to house arrest as detectives awaited the results of the tests.