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Facebook users in Myanmar have repeatedly shared posts promoting a potentially harmful “diet coffee” product called Vitaccino along with false claims that it can help consumers lose weight without side effects. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told AFP that the product contains a controlled substance known to “pose a significant risk to patients with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, or stroke.” Authorities in neighboring Thailand said the product had been banned in the kingdom.
The post was shared here on Facebook on October 20, 2022.
The post’s Burmese caption translates in part to: “Authentic Vitaccino Diet Coffee, the old version has arrived. Don’t worry about not losing weight. Vitaccino Diet Coffee is here.”
The publication goes on to claim that the drink can help you lose “10 to 20 pounds” (around 4.5 to 9 kilos) naturally by promoting bowel movement and “controlling appetite without giving [consumers] Diarrhea”.
“It can also lower cholesterol in your bloodstream and can help you prevent strokes. Coffee has no side effects and can be used for adults ages 18-60,” the post says.
Similar posts announcing the product have also been shared dozens of times on Facebook here, here, here, here, and here.
However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told AFP that it found that Vitaccino contains sibutramine, a controlled drug that poses a threat to consumers, particularly those with a history of heart problems and strokes.
The FDA issued a warning about the product in September 2014.
A FDA spokesman told AFP on November 29, 2022 that sibutramine was withdrawn from the market in October 2010 for safety reasons.
“The product poses a threat to consumers because sibutramine is known to substantially increase blood pressure and/or pulse rate in some patients,” he said.
“Sibutramine may also present a significant risk for patients with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, or stroke,” he added.
The spokeswoman also said the product “may also interact, in a life-threatening manner, with other medications a consumer may be taking.”
Its manufacturer, Dash Xclusive, voluntarily recalled Vitaccino in the US in May 2021.
Some of the fake Facebook posts promoting Vitaccino claim that it is made in Thailand.
But an administrator of the Thailand Food and Drug Administration Facebook page told AFP on December 1, 2022 that the product is “illegal” and not authorized in the country.
The Thai FDA published an article on July 21, 2022 stating: “The Royal Thai Police – FDA announced the results of an investigation into the illegal sales of drugs, food and cosmetics in the Pratunam area with a total value of more than 200,000 baht”.
Vitaccino was classified as a “food supplement product without food serial numbers,” in the article in Thai.
A live video of the announcement was posted to Facebook the same day by the Thai FDA here. The coffee drink can be seen as part of a display of prohibited items at the 11 minute 36 second mark of the video.
In the video, officials can be heard referencing the Vitaccino product, saying it had an incorrect and misleading label that did not include a Thai FDA authorization number.
“Previously, we submitted our investigation report to the Department of Medical Sciences of the Ministry of Public Health and found that these products include a drug that falls under category one of controlled psychotropic substances, called sibutramine. This is dangerous,” they added.
Fact Crescendo, an independent Burmese fact-checking site, also debunked a similar claim about the product.