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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

A Magic Pill?

Published March 27, 2009 5:13 PM by Abigail Scott

Like more than 66 percent of people in America, I'm overweight. And like most of those people, I wish I could magically drop off the extra pounds overnight, even though it took 15 years for them to settle around my bust, belly and butt.

I'll admit, I've been intrigued by those before-and-after advertisements for weight loss pills, powders and liquids in the back pages of celebrity magazines. You know - the ones that show a porky woman in a muumuu eating pie on one side, and a tanned babe with washboard abs on the other. Presumably, all Miss Muumuu did to turn into Miss Skinny was take Brand X Super Slim - without diet and exercise!!!.

I jest, but using such dieting elixirs can be dangerous, according to a new FDA alert. On March 20, the FDA released a list of 72 weight-loss products that contain, among other things, fluoxetine, anti-seizure drugs, and even drugs that are not authorized for use in the U.S. This list was started by the FDA in December 2008.

"These tainted weight loss products pose a great risk to public health because they contain undeclared ingredients and, in some cases, contain prescription drugs in amounts that greatly exceed maximum recommended dosages," said Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in a formal statement. "Consumers have no way of knowing that these products contain dangerous drugs that could cause serious consequences to their health."

Some of the scary ingredients the FDA uncovered in these preparations include:

  • sibutramine, an appetite suppressant (Meridia) and controlled substance available by prescription only (The product containing this ingredient goes by Venom Hyperdrive 3.0);
  • fenproporex - a controlled substance not approved for marketing in the U.S.;
  • furosemide - a potent diuretic (Lasix) only available by prescription;
  • rimonabant - a drug not approved for marketing in the U.S.;
  • cetilistat - an experimental obesity drug not approved for marketing in the U.S.; and
  • phenolphthalein - a solution used in chemical experiments and a suspected cancer-causing agent not approved for marketing in the U.S.

These products often are marketed as "herbal" or "all natural" dietary supplements and fat burners. They're sold on Web sites, some stores and beauty salons. The FDA has investigated several companies associated with the manufacture and sale of these products and is seeking product recalls.

The FDA urges anyone who has used these products to stop taking them and see their healthcare professional immediately. Adverse effects include tachycardia, hypertension, palpitations, MI and stroke. Consumers can visit the FDA Web site for a detailed Q&A page

Consumers and healthcare practitioners should report serious adverse events or product quality problems to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852-9787; 800- FDA-1088.

In the meantime, I plan to step up my good, old-fashioned weight-loss regimen --reduced calories and increased exercise - with no pills required.

1 comments

Great post! Taking furosemide without adjunctive potassium is in danger of hypokalemia which can be fatal, or cause a host of problems from hypertention to diarrhea. Meridia also has a host of side effects (including the desired anorexia). In these cases, saying "dieter beware" may not work, since not all these OTC diet aids tell you what's in them. Hard as it is, I'm with you -- there's no substitute for diet and exercise.

Candy Goulette March 30, 2009 1:11 PM

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