In a month in which at least 34 weight loss products of a New York-based company were recalled by the FDA, the agency has issued another warning, this time to consumers who use popular weight loss supplement Hydroxycut, to stop using these immediately. The warning comes because of reported liver injuries in persons who took these products, including at least one death.
Hydroxycut has a lion’s share of the weight loss supplement market with close to 9 million bottles reportedly sold last year alone. The supplement is popular with people on a diet because of its appetite suppressing properties. Besides, it is used widely by bodybuilders to define muscle tone. According to the FDA, some of the Hydroxycut products also have a serious side effect – they cause liver injuries. At least one person’s death has been linked to the weight loss supplement. A 19-year-old man reportedly died in 2007 from liver injuries. Also one person has had to undergo a liver transplant procedure after he suffered liver damage from using the product. According to the FDA, it has received at least 23 reports of liver injuries caused by the supplement.
The company that makes Hydroxycut, Canada based-Iovate Health Sciences has agreed to recall all Hydroxycut products, even though the FDA has linked only about 14 Hydroxycut products to liver injuries. The company however denies that the sole death was linked to its product in any way.
While drug makers are required to prove the safety and efficacy of their drugs before releasing them in the market, makers of nutritional supplements are not required to get FDA approval before releasing their products. The agency has little oversight over these products, and all it can do to protect the public from injuries is to monitor these supplements after they are released, and act when there are hazards reported.
This lack of oversight has in many cases, proved disastrous to users of these products. Product liability lawyers and consumer safety advocates have not forgotten the side effects of the Ephedra dietary supplement and the deaths resulting from its use.
It’s clear that the FDA must step in to increase it’s oversight over the nutrition and herbal supplement industry. Working after a supplement has been linked to injuries and deaths exposes potentially hundreds of thousands of people to serious health risks. Already there are concerns that there may be other products in the market that contain hydroxycitric acid, the ingredient in Hydroxycut that probably causes the injuries.