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'Natural' diet pills tainted with banned prescription drug

Twenty brands of dietary supplements touted as so-called natural weight loss aids have been found to contain a prescription drug pulled from the market for safety concerns, the Food and Drug Administration warned today.

Products marketed under names like “A-Slim 100% Natural Slimming Capsules,” “P57 Hoodia,” “PhentaBurn Slimming Capsules,” and “Dream Body Slimming Capsules,” were found to contain sibutramine. That's actually the medication more commonly known under the brand name Meridia -- a prescription weight-loss drug that was removed from the U.S. market last October  because it was linked to heart attacks and stroke.

According to the FDA warning, “the product poses a threat to consumers because sibutramine is known to substantially increase blood pressure and/or pulse rate in some patients and may present a significant risk for patients with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, or stroke.  This product may also interact in life-threatening ways with other medications a consumer may be taking."

Click here for a full list of products listed in the FDA warnings.

The FDA cautioned consumers taking these supplements to immediately stop and to throw away any unused pills. People experiencing symptoms like the ones described in the warning should contact their doctors, the FDA warned.  

The new warning comes as no surprise to Dan Hurley, author of “Natural Causes: Death, Lies and Politics in America's Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry.”

“Unfortunately this is not the first time that pharmaceuticals have been found in so-called dietary supplements,” Hurley said. “These kinds of announcements come from the FDA on a semi-regular basis.”

Marketers know that Americans are partial to products that sound like they’re all natural, Hurley said. “They claim that you can lose weight naturally just by taking a pill – a natural supplement that has no harmful effects,” he added. “There exists no such thing.”

The good news is that the FDA spotted the problem and put out the alert, Hurley said.

“Sometimes we need a sheriff in town to make sure the laws get obeyed,” he added. “I’m very glad to hear that the FDA made this announcement.”