Sunday 23 November 2014

Two mothers fined for selling harmful slimming tablets

Court hears they thought products were “100pc” herbal remedies

Tom Tuite

Published 03/03/2014 | 15:44

TWO Dublin women, who imported thousands of banned and dangerous slimming tablets which they unlawfully sold through popular websites, have been spared jail sentences.

Today 33-year-old Sharon Edwards and Tara McEvoy (aged 40), who have addresses at Donomore Avenue, Tallaght, were each fined €500 after they pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to breaking medicinal products regulations.

The women, both mothers-of-two, were successfully prosecuted by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) on charges which can result in maximum fines of €2,000 as well sentences of up to 12 months' imprisonment.

Judge John O'Neill heard that they imported what they believed were “100 per cent herbal” remedies called Lida and Botanical Soft Gel Capsules. The products were bought over the internet and turned out to contain a controversial drug called Sibutramine which has been withdrawn from markets across the world due to health risk fears.

Brenda Kirby, an IMB enforcement officer had said the investigation began in August 2010 when ads for certain products were placed on the Gumtree website.

On March 9, 2011, customs officers at the An Post mail centre in Portlaoise detained a parcel which had come from China and was addressed to Tara McEvoy. It contained 1,980 “Botanical Soft Gel Capsules”.

Ms Kirby visited McEvoy's home in Tallaght and she told the officer that she also had 360 “Lida” slimming capsules.

They were not healthcare professionals and admitted that for the previous year-and-a-half they had been selling the products which they believed were “100 per cent herbal”, at first to friends and later to other people via the Gumtree, Donedeal and Rollercoaster websites.

The IMB officer was provided with her laptop and other documentation and became aware that McEvoy's friend Sharon Edwards was also involved in the business.

The court heard that the two women had been using the products themselves, were happy with the results and then began bulk-buying them online to sell on to others.

Between them they earned about €12,000 with much of the money being used to buy more stock and one defence lawyer described the enterprise as a “kitchen table affair”.

The labels on the capsule containers did not mention that the products contained Sibutramine, the judge was also told.

This active ingredient has been withdrawn from markets in the United States as well as in EU countries, including Ireland. Judge O'Neill heard that this was as a result of findings that Sibutramine's “risks outweighed the benefits” and could result in a range harmful side effects including strokes, flu-like symptoms and cardiovascular problems.

The defence had asked the judge to note that it was not a sophisticated operation and the pair and used their own phone numbers and email addresses in their online ads. They had also given the IMB details of the people to whom they sold the remedies.

Judge O'Neill noted that they did not have prior criminal convictions, were apologetic and embarrassed. The two women also feared that a criminal convictions for the offence could negatively affect voluntary work they engage in and which requires Garda clearance, defence counsel Jennifer Morgan said.

Solicitor Ronan O'Neill for the IMB said that body was concerned about the level of awareness among the public in relation to products on sale online.

The judge accepted that the pair had co-operated with the IMB, had paid €2,000 in costs and that the Probation Service had found them to be at low risk of re-offending. However, he said they had done something “very stupid” and he imposed convictions with the fines which must be paid within four months otherwise they will be jailed for 14 days in default.

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