Contaminated weight loss supplements
A consumer alert has been issued by the FDA warning Americans against buying 28 weight loss supplements, most of which appear to be manufactured in China. The "contaminants" include prescription medications, following a pattern seen previously with Chinese "herbal" imports that were found to be juiced up with undisclosed drugs (see link below).
"An FDA analysis found that the undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients in some of these products include sibutramine (a controlled substance), rimonabant (a drug not approved for marketing in the United States), phenytoin (an anti-seizure medication), and phenolphthalein (a solution used in chemical experiments and a suspected cancer causing agent). Some of the amounts of active pharmaceutical ingredients far exceeded the FDA-recommended levels, putting consumers' health at risk.
These weight loss products, some of which are marketed as "dietary supplements," are promoted and sold on various Web sites and in some retail stores. Some of the products claim to be "natural" or to contain only "herbal" ingredients, but actually contain potentially harmful ingredients not listed on the product labels or in promotional advertisements. These products have not been approved by the FDA, are illegal and may be potentially harmful to unsuspecting consumers."
One of the drugs found in these products, rimonabant, is used for weight loss in Europe but not approved in the U.S. because of potential neuropsychiatric reactions (it has been linked to deaths and adverse effects abroad). Another, sibutramine, is prescribed in the U.S. for weight loss but consumers who take the contaminated supplements containing it could wind up with dosages far in excess of recommended levels. The other problem with undisclosed ingredients like this is that people not recommended for the prescription drug because of health contraindications are unknowingly taking it under the impression that their diet supplement contains "natural" ingredients.
"The health risks posed by these products can be serious; for example, sibutramine, which was found in many of the products, can cause high blood pressure, seizures, tachycardia, palpitations, heart attack or stroke. This drug can also interact with other medications that patients may be taking and increase their risk of adverse drug events."
The FDA notes that it has inspected sellers of these products and tried to initiate recalls, but calls the firms' responses "inadequate", saying that additional enforcement action may take place (based on the agency's limited funding and enforcement powers, don't expect quick action - and these companies are likely to crop up under new names selling similar products even if they're ordered to stop marketing tainted supplements.
So it's largely up to us to be wary of "magic" diet pills and to know where our supplements are coming from and how rigorously they've been clinically tested (if at all).
Here is a link that might be useful: what you stand to lose with weight loss supplements