FDA attacks ‘lose pounds quick’ weight-loss frauds

Agency promises to aggressively pursue violators

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday outlined a new campaign attacking fraudulent weight-loss products marketed as dietary supplements, especially those companies that proffer a “magic pill” that almost immediately achieves weight loss.

“These products are not legal dietary supplements,” stated Michael Levy, director of the FDA’s Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance. “They are actually very powerful drugs masquerading as ‘all-natural’ or ‘herbal’ supplements, and they carry significant risks to unsuspecting consumers. We have seen deaths associated with these weight-loss products. ... Make no mistake — they can kill you.”

To help drive home that message, the FDA has pieced together a series of commercials warning consumers against the dangers associated with these products. The commercials are located here, and an up-to-date consumer Web page can be found here.

In some cases, the FDA has found weight-loss products tainted with the prescription drug ingredient sibutramine. This ingredient was in an FDA-approved drug called Meridia, which was removed from the market in October 2010 because it caused heart problems and strokes. The FDA also has found other prescription drug ingredients that have been removed from the market or never were approved at all.

“We’ve found other weight-loss products marketed as supplements that contain dangerous concoctions of hidden ingredients, including seizure medications, blood-pressure medications and other drugs not approved [in the United States],” Levy said.

Many of these tainted products are imported and sold through the Internet, but some also can be found on store shelves. The FDA has made it a priority to seek out these dangerous products, stop them from being imported and take legal action against firms that manufacture and distribute them, the agency stated.

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