FDA Warns of Risky Drugs in Weight-Loss Supplements

March 19, 2015
Krystle Vermes

FDA laboratory analysis has confirmed that 3 products promoted as weight-loss supplements contain hidden drug ingredients with known risks.

FDA laboratory analysis has confirmed that 3 products promoted as weight-loss supplements contain hidden drug ingredients with known risks.

As a result, the FDA is notifying consumers not to purchase or use Xcel, Xcel Advanced, and Ultimate Boost, which are all sold on various websites and potentially in some retail stores.

The 2 latter dietary supplements were found to contain phenolphthalein, which is considered to have a cancer-causing risk and is not an active ingredient in any FDA-approved drug, while Xcel was found to contain fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used for treating depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other psychiatric conditions.

However, SSRIs have been linked to serious side effects, including suicidal thinking, seizures, and abnormal bleeding, and they have not been assessed for use in dietary supplements like Xcel.

Given those risks, the FDA advised health care professionals and patients to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of the products to its MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.

While many patients turn to weight-loss supplements as they try to get in shape, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention simply recommends a healthy diet and exercise. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism in 2012 showed that there is no evidence supporting significant weight loss from dietary supplements.

"For most people, unless you alter your diet and get daily exercise, no supplement is going to have a big impact," said study author Melinda Manore.