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Feds Issue Warning on HCG Weight Loss Products

FDA(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission issued warning letters Tuesday to seven companies that market over-the-counter homeopathic HCG weight loss products, calling for these companies to take “corrective action.”

There are currently no HCG products sold online or in stores that are approved for weight loss. Still, alternative versions of the hormone -- found as drops, sprays, and pills -- are marketed by many companies as a weight loss supplement.

It’s unclear how much HCG is contained in these products or whether the products truly contained HCG, even if labeled as such.

“Whether they contain it or not, they are illegal and unapproved drugs,” Elizabeth Miller, acting director of Division of Non Prescription Products and Health Fraud at Food and Drug Administration said at Tuesday’s press conference.

HCG diet product labels typically state that the product should be taken with a very low calorie diet. But there is no study that shows that taking any product containing HCG has additional benefit to weight loss besides being on a low caloric diet, Miller said at Tuesday’s press conference.

“Almost more than any other [market], the weight loss industry is fad driven,” Richard Cleland, assistant director of the division of advertising practices at the Federal Trade Commission said at Tuesday’s press conference. “Also, unfortunately it is fraud driven.”  

Human chorionic gonadotrpin (HCG), otherwise known as a fertility hormone, is produced in pregnant women’s placentas and is also found in a pregnant women’s urine.  The hormone is FDA-approved as a prescription injection drug to treat some cases of infertility.

Weaker studies have suggested that HCG can also absorb excessive fat tissue.  

It’s not clear how many people are on the diet or buy these products, but Miller and Cleland said that heavy marketing on the Internet indicates there is a large consumer market.

About 8 million people a year fall victim to consumer fraud on the Internet, Cleland said.

Companies that have been issued a warning letter have 15 days to respond to the FDA and the FTC with steps they have taken to correct their violation.

According to the FDA website, “firms that do not correct the violations may face enforcement action, possible legal penalties, or criminal prosecution.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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