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HCG weight-loss supplements are illegal, say FDA and FTC

Agencies jointly issue warnings to seven companies marketing homeopathic HCG weight-loss drops.

With more Americans scrambling to find rapid cures for their weight-management woes, manufacturers and retailers may be tempted to jump on the popular HCG diet bandwagon. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission, however, want you to know that this is very bad idea—and they’ve issued warning letters to seven HCG homeopathic product marketers to prove it.

“HCG has not been approved by the [FDA] for weight loss,” Elizabeth Miller, acting director of the FDA's fraud unit for over-the-counter products, says in a video statement on the agency’s website. Although the FDA has not received adverse reports related to HCG weight-loss products, Miller says the agency is concerned about the use of these products because they instruct consumers to take them in combination with a 500 calorie per day diet. “This kind of diet should only be done under medical supervision,” Miller adds. “The risks of such diets can include dizziness, fainting, gall stones and even heart arrhythmias.”

On Dec. 6, the FDA and FTC jointly issued warning letters to these companies marketing HCG weight-loss supplements: Nutri Fusion Systems Inc.; Natural Medical Supply LLC DBA HCG Complete Diet; HCG Platinum LLC, the; HCG Diet Direct LLC; and “We are telling them that they need to stop marketing these unapproved and illegal products,” Miller says.

The warning letters state that companies have 15 days to notify the FDA of the steps they have taken to correct the violations cited. Failure to do so may result in legal action, including seizure and injunction, or criminal prosecution. 

Currently, no HCG over-the-counter weight-loss products have been approved by the FDA.

As Natural Foods Merchandiser reports in its December 2011 issue, the HCG diet combines injections or homeopathic drops of human chorionic gonadotropin (a hormone produced by pregnant women) with a strict diet that allows the consumption of only 500 calories a day. HCG is said to make the diet more successful by suppressing a person’s appetite and helping to burn fat.  

Typically, HCG injections are administered by a health care practitioner, but the hormone can also be obtained via homeopathic drops, which are sold via the Internet and at pharmacies and natural products stores—including many reputable ones. Certain supplement manufacturers, such as RightWay Nutrition, claim that their HCG products help “dieters lose up to a pound a day the safe way.”

New Hope Natural Media banned the exhibition of homeopathic HCG weight-loss products at its Natural Products Expos in 2010.

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