California and New York are on track to get ahead of the FDA in banning the sale of over-the-counter diet pills to minors as pediatricians and public health advocates seek to protect children from extreme online weight-loss gimmicks.
A bill before Gov. Gavin Newsom would bar anyone in California under the age of 18 from buying weight-loss supplements without a prescription — whether online or in stores. A similar bill passed by New York lawmakers is on Gov. Cathy Hoechl’s desk. Neither Democrat has indicated how they would proceed.
If both bills are signed into law, advocates hope more states will accelerate to restrict the sale of diet pills to children. Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Missouri have introduced similar bills, and backers plan to continue their push next year.
About 30 million People in the United States will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. According to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, 95 percent of them are between the ages of 12 and 25. The hospital adds that eating disorders have the highest risk of death of any mental health disorder. And it’s easier than ever for minors to get pills online or over the counter. All dietary supplements, including those for weight loss, accounted for about 35 percent of the $63 billion over-the-counter health products industry in 2021, market research firm Vision Research reports.
Dietary supplements, which include a wide range of vitamins, herbs, and minerals, are classified as foods by the FDA and are not subject to the same scientific and safety testing as prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. Medicines do.
Public health advocates want to keep weight-loss products — with ads that promise to “drop 5 pounds in a week!” And pill names like Slim Sense — away from teenagers, especially girls, because some research has linked some products to eating disorders. A study in the American Journal of Public Health, which followed 10,000 women aged 14-36 over 15 years, found that “those who used diet pills had less health-related Providers were 5 times more likely to receive a diagnosis of malignancy within 1 to 3 years than those who did not.
Many pills have been found to be tainted with banned and dangerous ingredients that can cause cancer, heart attacks, strokes and other ailments. For example, the FDA advises the public to avoid Dr. Reed’s Slim Sense because it contains lorcaserin, which has been found to cause psychotic disturbances and impaired attention or memory. The FDA ordered it shut down and the company could not be reached for comment.
Brian Austin, founding director of the Strategic Training Initiative for Prevention, said, “Unscrupulous manufacturers are willing to risk consumer health — and they’re using illegal drugs, banned drugs, steroids, over-the-counter drugs, and more.” tying with motivations, even empirical motivations.” Eating Disorders, or STRIPED, supports restrictions. “Consumers have no idea that’s what this type of product is all about.”
STRIPED is a public health initiative based at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital.
An industry trade group, the Natural Products Association, disputes that diet pills cause eating disorders, citing a lack of consumer complaints to the FDA of adverse events from their members’ products. “According to the FDA data, there is no connection between the two,” said Kyle Turk, the association’s director of government affairs.
The association claims its members adhere to safe manufacturing practices, random product testing, and proper marketing guidelines. Representatives also worry that if minors can’t buy supplements over the counter, they could buy them from black market “crooks” and undermine the integrity of the industry. Under the bill, minors purchasing weight-loss products must show identification with the prescription.
Not all business groups oppose the ban. The American Herbal Products Association, a trade group representing dietary supplement manufacturers and retailers, dropped its opposition to the California bill once it was amended to remove categories of ingredients that are non-nutritive. found in supplements and vitamins, according to Robert Marriott, director of regulatory affairs. .
Child advocates have found worrying trends among young people who imagine their ideal body type based on what they see on social media. According to a study commissioned by Fairplay, a non-profit organization that seeks to prevent harmful marketing practices targeting children, children under the age of 9 have three or more Instagram posts. Follow-up accounts were found with eating disorders, while the average age was 19 years. The authors called it A “supportive eating disorder bubble.”
Meta, who owns Instagram and Facebook, said the report lacked substance, such as acknowledging the human need to share life’s difficult moments. The company argues that blanket censorship is not the answer. “Experts and advocacy organizations have told us that it’s important to strike a balance and allow people to share their personal stories while not encouraging or promoting eating disorders,” Meta spokeswoman Lisa Crenshaw said in an email. Allowing people to share their personal stories while removing content.”
Dr. Jason Nagata, a pediatrician who cares for children and young adults with life-threatening eating disorders, believes that easy access to diet pills can help his patients at UCSF Banff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. Is. This was the case of one of his patients, a frail 11-year-old girl.
“She basically went into starvation mode because she wasn’t getting enough nutrition,” said Nagata, who provided supporting testimony for the California bill. “She was taking these pills and using other extreme behaviors to lose weight.”
Nagata said the number of patients she sees with eating disorders has tripled since the start of the pandemic. They are eager to take diet pills, some with poor results. “We have patients who are so dependent on these products that they would be hospitalized and they’re still ordering these products on Amazon,” he said.
Public health advocates turned to state legislatures in response to the federal government’s limited authority to regulate diet pills. Under a 1994 federal law known as the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, the FDA “cannot step in unless there is a clear problem of consumer harm,” Austin said.
Unmatched by the supplement industry’s heavy lobbying on Capitol Hill, public health advocates moved to a state-by-state approach.
However, there is a push for the FDA to improve oversight of what goes into diet pills. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois introduced a bill in April that would require dietary supplement makers to register their products — along with ingredients — with the regulator.
Supporters say the change is needed because manufacturers are known to add dangerous ingredients. C. Michael White of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy found in a review of health fraud databases that 35 percent of tainted health products come from weight-loss supplements.
Some ingredients are banned, including sibutramine, a stimulant. “It was a very commonly used weight loss supplement that was pulled from the U.S. market because of the risk of causing things like heart attacks, strokes and arrhythmias,” White said.
Another ingredient was phenolphthalein, which was used in laxatives until it was identified as a suspected carcinogen and banned in 1999. “To think,” he said, “to think that this product would still be in the U.S. market is just unreasonable.”
This story was prepared by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Along with policy analysis and polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.
Use our content.
This story may be reprinted for free ( details ).