OTC Dietary Supplements

The holidays are over, which means most of us are just getting back into the swing of things after the traditional holiday rush. As you move on and begin to tackle the first few weeks of 2016, be sure not to forget those New Year’s resolutions you made. One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, by far, is to lose weight and get healthy; a task much easier said than. Which is why some people chose to turn to dietary supplements to help lose weight.

Most people know that the best way to shed pounds is to eat less and exercise more, but sometimes busy lives and hectic schedules make it tough to lose weight the right way. Unfortunately, this has led many individuals to seek out easier, faster methods of weight loss that can be dangerous to your health, chief among them: diet pills.

Dietary Supplements and the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating all of the food, drinks, and drugs produced in the United States, but that doesn’t mean that all of these are managed according to the same standards; they’re not. Dietary supplements, for instance, are one of the items that fall under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act.

Amended by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, these laws mean that manufacturers of dietary supplements “do not need FDA approval prior to marketing their products.” To put it even more simply, the FDA basically uses the honor system to manage these companies, hoping that each will, “make sure its products are safe and that any claims made about such products are true.”

Because these companies can use whatever ingredients they please, they’ll commonly use or imitate drugs found in prescription medications often given to those struggling with eating disorders. Some of these ingredients are known to be dangerous, and have even been used in prescription medicines that have been recalled for years.

The simple truth is that the companies who make diet pills want one thing: more money. They’ll do, use, sell, and say whatever they have to to accomplish that goal. Thankfully, the FDA does issue recalls and public notifications to warn consumers when they become aware of a dietary supplement that contains potentially dangerous ingredients.

At the time this article was written, the FDA had issued 35 public notifications in 2015 warning consumers about dietary supplements. Every single one of these notices was released because the product being addressed contained hidden drug ingredients. Last year also saw 4 recalls of dietary supplements:

  • Fuel Up, produced by Reesna Inc.
  • Pink Bikini, produced by Lucy’s Weight Loss System
  • Lips Escultura, produced by Lipo Escultura
  • Fit Firm and Fabulous, produced by Fit Firm and Fabulous

Potential Side Effects of Diet Pills

As with most medications, diet pills have their fair share of risks and side effects, some of which may have the potential to be life threatening. The side effects manifested by weight loss drugs should not be ignored. If you are taking diet or weight loss pills and you experience any of these symptoms, please consider discontinuing use immediately and speaking with your doctor about a better option:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Tachycardia (heightened heart rate)
  • Liver disease or damage (signs of which include jaundice, discolored stool, stomach pain, and itching, amongst others)
  • Insomnia
  • Birth defects (if the user is pregnant)
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Restlessness
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Abuse/Dependence/Withdrawal

Mass Tort Cases involving Diet Pills

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed by consumers against the makers of diet pills in the past.  Most have been relatively minor but a few have evolved into major class action lawsuits that garner the attention of the entire country. Some of the biggest cases included:

  • Fen-Phen: This drug was originally meant to be a short–term appetite suppressant. It was prescribed throughout the 1990’s, until reports began to surface of patients suffering heart damage and developing Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. Although it has been removed from store shelves on multiple occasions, Fen-Phen pills can still be found in some health food and vitamin stores.
  • QuickTrim: With a marketing campaign endorsed by the Kardashian sisters, it came as no surprise when QuickTrim was ousted as a fake. An FDA evaluation revealed that the primary ingredient in the pill was caffeine, which is neither a safe nor effective means of losing weight. Lawsuits were filed, but not before QuickTrim had the chance to earn $45 million in sales.
  • LeanSpa: In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against LeanSpa on the basis that they were running deceptive marketing campaigns and was scamming consumers into giving them money. The FTC was able to shut LeanSpa down and force the company to spend $7 million refunding disgruntled customers.
  • Sensa: This product gained FTC attention by claiming all the consumer had to do was, “sprinkle on your food, eat, and lose weight.” In December 2014, the FTC reached a settlement with Sensa that would allow required them to pay a total of nearly $26 million in refunds to those who had purchased the supplement.

Healthy Alternatives

So we’ve learned that there is no such thing as an “FDA Approved” dietary supplement. In light of that, if there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s this: there is no one product or pill that can make you safely and effectively lose weight. While it would be nice if something like that did exist, it just doesn’t. Until that day comes, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to diet pills that are much safer:

  • Eating Better: Obviously this one can be tough, especially when the foods that are best for us don’t always taste as good as we’d like. The great thing about improving your eating habits is that you can do it at your own pace. Start by cutting out soda and candy, and then move on to cutting out processed foods and those which contain Trans fats. Keep it simple, and stick to foods that occur in nature, like fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and fresh meats.
  • Exercise: Fortunately, like eating well, exercising is something you can work up to and do at a pace that your lifestyle allows. Only have 20 minutes to go for a brisk walk or light jog? Take that opportunity instead of spending 20 more minutes on the couch. Go to the gym when you can, do push-ups and sit-ups during TV commercials, learn a few yoga poses to incorporate in your morning routine. There are hundreds of ways to work out and every little bit helps.
  • Natural Supplements: There are vitamins and supplements that can aid in weight loss. Note that these are just that, aids. They won’t make you shed pounds on their own and they aren’t a sure thing, but some people have reported positive results when combining natural supplements with diet and exercise. As with all pills and supplements, you should always consult your doctor before taking anything.
  • Non-Traditional Weight Loss Therapy: It should be mentioned that these are not one size fits all solutions. Everyone’s body is different, which is why some have found success with non-traditional therapies and some have not. A few options include: acupuncture, massage, hypnosis, mediation, and journaling accompanied by visualization of your goals. Again, you should get your physician’s approval before trying any of these and they may not work for everyone.

We encourage you to stay away from diet pills and to seek a weight loss method that combines natural ingredients and food with an active lifestyle. The fact is, the risks associated with weight loss pills and unregulated dietary supplements are not worth it. You may lose a few pounds now, but you could be paying for those few pounds by sacrificing your health in the future

If you have taken diet pills and are experiencing heart problems, or any adverse symptoms, know that you may have options. Our attorneys know that dangerous drugs are out there. We’d love to speak with you about your experience and evaluate your case to find out if legal recourse is a legitimate option. Call us at 1-877-529-1222.