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'Potentially Harmful' Drug in Look-alike Weight Loss Pills

Jan. 19, 2010 -- Fake, "potentially harmful" versions of the weight loss drug Alli are being sold on Internet auction sites such as eBay, the FDA and GlaxoSmithKline warn.

The counterfeit Alli looks a lot like the real thing. But the pills are filled not with orlistat -- the main ingredient in GSK's Alli and in Roche's Xenical. Instead, they are filled with sibutramine.

Sibutramine, the main ingredient in the prescription weight loss drug Meridia, affects chemical signals in the brain and should not be used without a doctor's oversight. The drug should not be used by certain people.

Moreover, Alli is taken three times daily while Meridia is meant to be taken only once a day.

So far, the fake Alli has been sold only in 60 milligram, 120-count refill packs. They are falsely being sold as the real thing.

To date, GlaxoSmithKline says it has received no word that the fake Alli has been sold in retail stores or anyplace other than on the Internet.

Here's how to identify the fake product, according to GSK:

  • The LOT code information is missing from the top of the box.
  • The expiration date includes month, day, and year (example: 06162010). The authentic Alli expiration date includes only the month and year (example: 05/12).
  • The seal on the bottle should read "SEALED FOR YOUR PROTECTION" in white ink on GlaxoSmithKline's Alli bottle; This statement is not present on the fake product.
  • The capsule size is slightly larger in the counterfeit pills and the contents of the capsules are different -- the counterfeit content is powdery and the genuine product is more of a pellet shape.

Pictures of the real and fake product can be seen on GlaxoSmithKline's web site and on the FDA web site.

If you think you may have purchased the fake Alli, the FDA would like to hear from you at or by calling 800-551-3989.

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