By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR WASHINGTON, 24 dec 2008 – If you're looking for a little help shedding extra pounds after the holidays, the government is warning you to stay away from nearly 30 weight-loss products that contain unlisted and possibly dangerous ingredients.
The pills are advertised as "natural" fat busters and have intriguing names like Imelda Perfect Slim and Zhen de Shou. Some are touted as new versions of "ancient remedies" from Asia.
They may promise an easy fix to weight problems, but the Food and Drug Administration on Monday said the concoctions contain unlisted ingredients, including high doses of a powerful anti-obesity drug, as well as a suspected carcinogen.
"When consumers are buying these products online, we're telling them that if it sounds too good to be true, it is likely to be too good to be true," said Michael Levy, an FDA lawyer who works on enforcement issues.
FDA lab testing found 28 dietary supplements that could land unsuspecting users in the emergency room. Most of the diet pills appear to be coming from China. They are mainly sold on the Internet.
Nearly all of the pills contain sibutramine, a powerful appetite suppressant that's a chemical cousin of amphetamines. It can cause heart attacks, strokes and heart palpitations, especially in people with a history of high blood pressure or heart problems.
Sibutramine is also the chemical ingredient in the prescription drug Meridia, which is used to treat obesity. But FDA testing found that some of the diet pills contain nearly three times the recommended daily dose.
Several of the pills contain phenolphthalein, a chemical long used as a laxative, but which is now being withdrawn from the market because of cancer risks.
None of the supplements lists the dangerous ingredients on the label. "Consumers have no way of knowing that these products contain powerful drugs that can cause serious health consequences," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, head of the FDA's drug evaluation center.
The FDA is considering criminal charges against some of the companies, because they have not responded to requests for recalls.
The products are:
Fatloss Slimming, 2 Day Diet, 3x Slimming Power, 5x Imelda Perfect Slimming, 3 Day Diet Japan Lingzhi, 24 Hours Diet, 7 Diet Day/Night Formula, 7 Day Herbal Slim, 8 Factor Diet, 999 Fitness Essence, Extrim Plus and GMP.