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[December 2020]

Beware of online medical beauty services touting weight loss!

Sample case

I found a clinic offering weight loss treatment online. I was attracted by online ads saying "No need to diet or exercise," "Zero travel time and Zero waiting time," and "You can consult doctor instantly via online chat." Then, I downloaded an app for online medical care and reserved a free counseling. On the appointment day, a person claiming to be an advisor contacted me through video call. Due to bad reception, the advisor stopped using video call and communicated with me via telephone instead. The advisor said, "In the treatment, you need to inject medication by yourself. Side effects may rarely occur. Even if you develop side effects, the symptoms will disappear within a few days." The advisor explained the treatment course, the price, and how to do self-injection. I also talked with a doctor. The doctor did not examine me and just asked whether or not I would receive the treatment. I paid 500,000 yen for the treatment. A few days later, a syringe and supplements were delivered to me from the clinic. Medication was supposed to be delivered refrigerated from abroad. At a later date, however, medication was delivered to me at ambient temperatures. After self-injection of the medication, I developed side effects and felt sick. When I consulted the clinic, the advisor just explained the dosage of medication and the doctor did not give me any advice.

(woman in her 30s)

Problems and advice

Diabetes medication has not been approved safe and effective when used for the purpose of weight loss.

Some medical beauty clinics provide services for weight loss treatment online such as first medical examination, pharmaceutical prescribing and follow-up medical examination. Some of the clinics prescribe self-injection of GLP-1 receptor agonist1, which has been approved as medication for type 2 diabetes in Japan, for the purpose of weight loss.

Some clinics state on their websites that GLP-1 receptor agonist has been approved for obesity treatment in Europe and the US. As of July 2020, however, the Japan Diabetes Society pointed out that in Japan GLP-1 receptor agonist was approved as medication for type 2 diabetes and that safety and efficacy there of for extra-label use in Japanese people not suffering from type 2 diabetes were not confirmed.2

Before using online medical beauty services, confirm details of treatment and risks including side effects by getting information from professional medical societies and public organizations.

  1. 1 GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) is a hormone which promotes insulin secretion. GLP-1 receptor agonist works much like GLP-1 in the body.
  2. 2 "Our views on extra-label use of GLP-1 receptor agonist" released by the Japan Diabetes Society on July 9, 2020

Confirm what the clinic does for you in case of side effects.

It has been reported that some consumers felt sick or dizzy after self-injection and they did not receive sufficient treatment from their doctors.

Online medical care is accessible from home even if you live far away from the clinic. On the other hand, it may not be possible to be seen in the clinic soon in case of side effects. When using online medical beauty services, receive an explanation on details of treatment, side effects and emergency response. If you are not satisfied with the explanation or feel uneasy, do not sign up on the spot.