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Tainted Weight Loss Pills Flagged as Health Risks

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On Dec. 22, 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alerted consumers not to buy or use more than 25 different weight-loss pill products because the products may be harmful to their health. FDA has recently expanded this alert.

Which products have been cited?

For the latest list of tainted weight loss products, visit


Why did FDA act against these products?

These products contain undeclared, active pharmaceutical ingredients that may put consumers' health at risk. Some of the amounts of active pharmaceutical ingredients far exceed FDA-recommended levels.

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 FDA, are illegal, and may be potentially harmful to unsuspecting consumers. 

What undeclared ingredients were found?

An FDA analysis found that the undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients in some of these products include

  • sibutramine, a controlled substance that can cause high blood pressure, seizures, abnormally rapid heart rate (tachycardia), palpitations, heart attack or stroke. It can also interact with other medications and increase patients' risk of unexpected bad side effects (adverse reactions). Sibutramine's safety has also not been established in pregnant and lactating women, or in children younger than 16.
  • rimonabant, a drug not approved for marketing in the United States, has been associated with increased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts. In Europe, where it is approved, rimonabant has been linked to five deaths and 720 adverse reactions over the last two years.
  • phenytoin, an anti-seizure medication
  • phenolphthalein, a solution used in chemical experiments that is a suspected cancer-causing agent

Where are these products sold?

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.

Is FDA taking further action?

The agency is currently seeking product recalls. FDA may take additional enforcement steps, such as issuing warning letters or initiating seizures, injunctions, or criminal charges.

Tips for consumers

  • If you use any of these weight-loss products, stop taking them and consult your health care professional immediately.
  • Seek guidance from a health care professional before purchasing weight-loss products.
  • Report serious adverse reactions or product quality problems to FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program at

For more information about topics for your health, visit the FDA Consumer Information Center ( 

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