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FDA Yanks HCG Weight-Loss Agents from Market

December 14, 2011

I would say that it’s about time the FDA got off its ass and did something about the fraud that’s been happening in the diet industry for the last, oh, 60 years or so. When I read this article from my daily MedPage Today email, all I could say was, “About damned time.”

The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission said over-the-counter weight-loss products containing human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) are fraudulent and illegal, and the agencies have told seven manufacturers to stop selling them.

That’s good for as far as it goes, but what about those doctors who are injecting HCG for weight loss? Seems to me that’s also fraudulent and illegal, but nothing in the article says anything about telling doctors to cease and desist those injections.

Noting that the product labels call for the pellets, liquids, and sprays to be taken in conjunction with a very low-calorie diet, an FDA official said it did not appear that oral HCG offers any extra benefit.

“There is no substantial evidence HCG increases weight loss beyond that resulting from the recommended caloric restriction,” said Elizabeth Miller, acting director of the FDA’s fraud unit for OTC products, during a conference call with reporters.

The recommended diets call for daily calorie intake as low as 500 calories, low enough to create a risk of malnutrition, electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrhythmias, and gallstone formation, Miller said.

Oh, okay, these low-calorie diets in combination with HCG are risky enough to say that malnutrition, electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrhythmias, and gallstones can happen. So, let’s stop the HCG, because it’s a drug and regulated by the FDA, but these diets aren’t, so you can go ahead and keep recommending them — never mind the risks associated with those very low calorie diets. Those risks are worth the short-term weight loss, aren’t they?

The warning letters sent to manufacturers of the products note that HCG has not received FDA approval for any weight-loss indication. The substance is approved as an injectable drug for certain forms of female infertility and is therefore clearly subject to FDA regulation.

Well, I’m waiting for these companies to start funding studies, fixing the results, and lobbying the FDA to approve HCG as a weight loss drug (why, no, I’m not cynical, I’m a realist, why do you ask?).

HCG weight-loss products are typically sold over the Internet, often promoted with unsolicited “spam” emails, with such claims as “Lose 26 pounds in 26 days” and “Resets your metabolism.”

According to one of the letters, sent to HCG Diet Direct of Tucson, Ariz., “The claims made on your product labeling and website … clearly demonstrate that this product is a drug as defined” by federal law.

Yep, they’re using it as a diet drug, they’ve been using it as a diet drug for how long now? I’ve been getting these emails for at least a year now, so why is the FDA just now getting their panties in a bunch over this? Why weren’t they getting their knickers in a knot when companies first started selling HCG as a weight loss product? And why aren’t they going after doctors who are injecting this into women for weight loss?

The companies have 15 days to inform the FDA of the steps they have taken to correct the violations. Theoretically, the firms could seek FDA approval for the weight-loss claims, but the agencies expect that they will simply stop selling the products.

If the companies do not do so voluntarily, the FDA and FTC threatened to forcibly halt their operations.

Fifteen days? Yeah, right, FDA and FTC, don’t hold your breath waiting for them to stop selling their products. Your threats don’t mean much to those companies. After all, you told the companies selling acai berry and hoodia for weight loss to cease and desist or you would shut them down. You were real successful at that, weren’t you? Sorry to inform you, but thanks to Congress, you’re all bark and no fucking bite.

Officials from both agencies were unable to estimate how many people have bought HCG weight-loss products, but Cleland said they were the current hot item in the lose-weight-fast category.

“Four years ago, the miracle weight-loss ingredient was Hoodia gordonii, and then it was acai berry, and now it’s homeopathic HCG,” he said.

“Almost more than any other, the weight-loss industry is fad-driven,” he added. “Unfortunately, all too often, it is also fraud-driven.”

And why is it fad-driven and fraud-ridden? Could it be society’s insistence on all women fitting a cookie-cutter mold “ideal” of beauty? Could it be the greed of corporations willing to feed into, and off of, that ideal by coming up with more and more off-the-wall ideas/compounds/ingredients to tease and tantalize us with? And because we’re bombarded with so many messages on a daily basis that unless we meet this “ideal” we just aren’t worthy, no matter how much we’ve accomplished?

So we buy into it, in more ways than one, and waste our time, our money, and our health chasing a dream, a phantasm of success that can never be. And who is there who will protect us from the charlatans? Not the FDA, the toothless barking dog.

The only ones who are protecting us are those of us who are speaking out against this kind of propaganda — those of us who say that all bodies are beautiful, no matter their size, shape, or color, that all bodies are deserving of love and respect.

One day, these companies will go out of business because there will be no one to buy their products — everyone will be happy with the body they have and will see no reason to buy some charlatan’s snake oil to change their body.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. hlkolaya permalink
    December 14, 2011 11:37 am

    Yikes- 500 calories a day?? That’s.. well, that’s an eating disorder… I know just about every fat blogger or activist has said the same- but it’s ridiculous that behaviors that would be diagnosed as an ED in a thin person are encouraged (even by doctors!) to fat people… there seems to be some kind of idea that burning fat is the same as eating food (ie, you don’t need to eat as long as your fat is sustaining you), but that’s simply not how it works.

  2. December 14, 2011 12:10 pm

    Your first clue that HCG is BS should be the 500 calorie diet.

    “Hey, I’ve got this great new product that will help you lose weight fast!”

    “Yeah? How does it work?”

    “Well, you drink this pregnant lady pee and eat just 500 calories a day and voila! Instant weight loss!”

    “Wowee! Sign me up for that!”

    I need to take a copy of the FDA’s decision to our local herbal supplement shop that has been boasting of HCG for months now.

    I wonder what the next idiotic “cure” will be.


    • December 14, 2011 1:11 pm

      ““Well, you drink this pregnant lady pee and eat just 500 calories a day and voila! Instant weight loss!”” – atchka i think i love you. i literally fell off my chair laughing.

      and yea it’s amazing that behaviours that would be called anorexia in skinny women are called a diet in fat women. Because, even at my thinnest i was only 175lb- over a large framed 6 foot 2 inch tall body. My bra size back then was a 38C – in high school – my rib cage has very little fat on it actually im all boob and ass. My hair was falling out and my periods had stopped (classic signs of malnutrition btw). but no i was still considered overweight. Slipped by with an eating disorder for YEARS because i was still “fat”

      every “amazing” diet plan i have seen that is guarenteed to “melt fat fast” includes a meal plan with like 500-1200 calories. um..DUH of course you are gonna lose weight then. thats roughly half what is recommended.

  3. DeAun permalink
    January 6, 2012 11:25 pm

    Interesting that they referred to it as “homeopathic HCG”. For one thing, I don’t think that actually exists and they have no clue what they are talking about when they say homeopathic. Another thing is that if it were homeopathic, I doubt there would be much concern and that it wouldn’t induce weightloss anyway, just support fertility, though it has not been homeopathicly “proven” to my knowledge.

    So frustrating when something like this is on the market, but even more frustrating when it is incorrectly labeled and used to besmirch naturopathic or homeopathic medicine by people who do not onow what they are tlking about (which seems to happen a fair amount with things like this). Not to say that naturopaths are not using HCG for weightloss, but that is an entirely different issue.

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