The Magic Weight Loss Solution is a Dangerous Fairytale

Summertime is approaching, and with it comes swimsuit season. Around this time of year, Americans who are carrying around even just a few spare pounds may consider drastic measures to shed unwanted inches before they hit the beach.

Being overweight or obese can pose serious health risks. In Washington, 62% of people are overweight or obese, and each year that percentage increases. This trend has serious health implications that far surpass looking good in that bikini. That being said, drugs or drastic diets are not safe ways to go about losing weight, be it 5 or 50 pounds.

Hazardous HCG

In 2010, federal agents searched the Natural Healing Clinic in Port Angeles, Washington, a clinic run by Rick Marschall, NP.

The reason for this search? The illegal possession and sale of human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG). Marschall initially claimed to be using the HCG for its FDA approved use as a fertility treatment. After the collection of evidence against him, including his website which promoted the use of HCG as a weight loss drug, Marschall admitted to lying to the FDA and in 2011 pleaded guilty to one count of causing the introduction of misbranded drugs.

No Evidence of Weight Loss Success with HCG

Over the last few years, HCG has become wildly popular as a weight loss supplement. Weight loss clinics “prescribe” it in conjunction with a restricted calorie diet of 500 calories per day. The problem is that there is no evidence that HCG actually promotes weight loss, appetite suppression or changes fat metabolism and distribution, as those who sell it claim.

In December of 2011 the FDA warned that prescribing or marketing HCG for weight loss is illegal and dangerous. Seven letters to HCG manufacturers were sent to inform them that they must stop the production of the product.

Despite this, HCG drops are still widely available at national retailers and naturopaths; additionally, weight loss clinics continue to promote the use of HCG with a restricted calorie diet. Restricted calorie diets are dangerous – and sometimes fatal – as they put the body into a starvation mode and decrease metabolism as well as put dieters at risk for gallstone formation, electrolyte imbalance and heart arrhythmias.

Over-the-Counter or Prescription, Take Caution with Diet Pills

HCG is one of the most popular, but it’s certainly not the only dangerous diet out there. Over-the-counter diet pills should be treated with extreme caution. The FDA does not regulate anything that is marketed as a dietary supplement and there is likely very little evidence that it is safe and effective.

There are prescription diet pills that are FDA approved. Most of them are only for short-term use and only for those with obesity and obesity related complications.

  • Phentemine is a prescription appetite suppressant.
  • Xenical is a prescription fat absorption inhibitor.
  • Alli is the over-the-counter form of Xenical.

The FDA may approve two additional prescriptions this summer, making them the first prescription diet pills to be approved in over a decade.

  • Lorcaserin by Arena
  • Qnexa by Vivus Inc.

The final decision will depend on the FDA’s consideration of the potential risk for tumors, increased blood pressure and damaged heart valves.

HCG is not the only prescription medication approved for other uses that is also prescribed off-label for weight loss.

  • Phen-Pro is a combination of phentemine and Prozac, an antidepressant.
  • Topomax is an anti-seizure medication.
  • Wellbutrin is an antidepressant.

Diet pills should only be prescribed for obese people who have not lost weight through diet and exercise programs alone. Any prescription comes with side effects that can be serious and should be avoided if possible. Diet pill side effects include but are not limited to:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth

These are the more mild and common side effects, but complications may arise, particularly in patients with certain conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, that may be far more serious and sometimes fatal.

Small Steps Toward a Healthier You

The best way to shed pounds is through lifestyle changes and patience. Exercise regularly and eat a healthier diet. Instead of trying to change all your habits at once, take two basic steps:

  • Decrease your “screen time.” Turn off the television; step away from your computer; put down your smart phone.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Check out the CDC’s site for information and recipes to help you incorporate fresh foods into your diet.

An Attempt at Health Gone Awry

Healthy intention can turn into serious health problems quickly with poorly prescribed diet pills or over-the-counter quick fixes. If you have been a victim of a diet pill mishap, you may be eligible for compensation. Please contact us for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.