Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Actress sues pill importer ‘Slim 10’ nearly killed me, says De Cruz
SINGAPORE: A Singapore actress began her court battle yesterday against the importers and distributors of diet pills that she says nearly caused her to die of liver failure.
Lawyers for Singapore television star Andrea De Cruz began arguments in the High Court seeking unspecified damages in a civil suit against Health Biz, the importer and distributor of “Slim 10'' diet pills.
The case is expected to last three weeks.
A recent photograph of De Cruz with her boyfriend Png. Png donated part of his liver to save her.
The deaths of at least six women across Asia have been linked to the diet pills, produced by Yuzhitang Health Products of Guangdong.
The pills were promoted as being 100% herbal, but Singapore's Health Sciences Authority belatedly found them to contain ingredients it considered poisonous.
“What (De Cruz) went through was nothing short of catastrophic,'' her lawyers argued in documents submitted to the court.
De Cruz took six Slim 10 tablets a day in December 2001 and January last year, the court heard.
She was admitted to hospital in April last year suffering from symptoms of severe hepatitis and then suffered liver failure. De Cruz was only saved when her boyfriend, fellow actor Pierre Png, donated part of his liver to her.
De Cruz is seeking damages for injuries she alleges were caused by the drug and to cover the cost of her liver transplant surgery and treatment, court documents said.
The pill's Chinese manufacturer is also named in the suit, but De Cruz's lawyers said they were unable to serve the company court papers because it had abandoned its offices, the documents said.
She is also suing the pills' distributor, TV Media, and actor Rayson Tan Tai Ming who sold the pills to her, the documents said.
Health Biz denies it was negligent, saying the Singapore Government approved the pills after the company paid a laboratory to analyse them, according to documents submitted to the court by the company's lawyers.
The government “raised no alarm upon receipt of these analyses,'' lawyers for Health Biz said in court documents.
Health officials pulled Slim 10 from drug store shelves in April last year, after the pills were found to contain two undeclared substances: fenfluramine, a banned substance under the country's Poisons Act, and nicotinamide, a vitamin B derivative.
About 20,000 bottles of Slim 10 had been sold in Singapore before then.
Another woman who took the pills, 43-year-old Selvarani Raja, died after she suffered liver failure and became too ill for liver transplant surgery. Five women have died in Japan.
A Singapore coroner ruled in March that there was medical proof that the pills killed Raja and that Slim 10's importers and distributors were criminally negligent.
The civil trial resumes today with De Cruz's testimony. – AP Another perspective from The Straits Times, a partner of Asia News Network.