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Northern Ireland man in stark warning to public over perils of buying dodgy weight loss pills online

By Stewart Robson

A Co Armagh man has issued a stark warning about the dangers of buying fake medicines online after suffering severe side-effects from rip-off diet pills.

Vlogger Joshua Hewitt (20) said he bought the tablets as a last resort after dealing with years of anxiety caused by his weight.

The Richhill campaigner said he has struggled to control his weight since he was young and tried to combat it by buying pills in early 2017 via an online auction site. He described the purchase as "a last resort".

Now more than a year and a half on from taking the first tablet, Joshua has released the last in a series of YouTube videos warning the public of the dangers of buying pills.

Joshua has worked collaboratively with the Government's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as part of the their #FakeMeds campaign to highlight the risks.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said he knew after several days that the tablets he had purchased were having an adverse effect.

"I'd always been a bit of a yo-yo dieter where I'd maybe diet for a week and couldn't have got back on it for maybe another six months where I was maybe a stone heavier. I'd always tried and I'd always failed," he said.

"I knew there had been people who hadn't taken the pills so well but I felt like I was so low in the way I looked. My body confidence was so low. This was a last resort."

A major regret, Joshua said, was that he didn't do enough research on the pills prior to buying them. Just days after taking the first pill, they were discarded.

"I'd done no research beforehand," he added. "It was really quick how it happened. I knew I should have done research because if I had, they wouldn't have been bought.

"I'd gone online and just searched for diet pills and went a few pages in and saw a few. I was clicking into accounts to read the feedback and saw tablets were given a 99.7 rating out of 100 and thought that was good.

"When they arrived they were packaged like tablets you'd buy off the high street but the colours were a lot more faded and you could tell it wasn't the official product.

"They were only in and around £3. I'd say on the high street they're around £12. I just thought that they were a bargain and they're going to get me skinny. I don't have that mindset now whatsoever but it was back then.

"I got a week's supply but didn't follow through with the week. I got to about day three and already felt a bit different. My anxiety was a bit higher. I was in bed with no motivation and at the same time exhausted from doing nothing. I felt a bit light-headed as well and ultimately chucked them in the bin."

After ditching the tablets, Joshua has focused on losing weight in more traditional ways via healthy eating and regular exercise. At his heaviest, he weighed 20st 12lb.

He's shed more than 4st since then and puts that down to several things, adding: "I've realised it's not going to happen overnight. You need to put the effort in."

According to the MHRA, over £5m worth of dodgy diet pills have been seized since April 2013 with 16 deaths reported to the agency since 2002.

Joshua, who has over 600 YouTube followers, has a simple message to others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

"Be proud of who you are because you need to have a positive mindset about yourself," he added. "If you are looking to diet, realise that it's not going to happen overnight.

"If you keep the positive mindset and stay happy things will get easier."

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