California and New York are set to go a step further than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in limiting the sale of over-the-counter diet pills to minors, as pediatricians and public health advocates try to defend them. Scattered damage traps on the Internet.
A bill submitted to Gov. Gavin Newsom would ban anyone under the age of 18 from buying weight loss supplements online or in stores without a prescription in California. Another similar bill approved by New York lawmakers is on Gov. Cathy Hochul’s desk. None of the Democrats indicated what they would do.
If both measures become law, their supporters hope they will encourage more states to restrict the sale of diet pills to children and teenagers. Massachusetts, New Jersey and Missouri have introduced similar bills, and their supporters plan to continue the push next year.
About 30 million people in the United States will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime; According to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, 95% of them are between the ages of 12 and 25. It adds that eating disorders have the highest mortality risk of all mental disorders. And now it’s easier than ever for minors to get hold of pills sold over the Internet or on pharmacy shelves.
All dietary supplements, including those aimed at weight loss, account for about 35% of health products sold over the counter in an industry that will generate $63 billion in 2021, according to Vision Research Reports, a market research firm.
Covering a wide range of vitamins, herbs and minerals, dietary supplements are classified as food by the FDA and are not subject to the same scientific and safety testing as prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Public health advocates want to keep weight-loss products—with ads that promise “Lose 2 pounds a week!” And pill names like Slim Sense—away from young people, especially girls, because research has linked some products to eating disorders.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health, which followed more than 10,000 women aged 14 to 36 for 15 years, found that “those who used diet pills were five times more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. Those who did not use them Compared to a healthcare provider in 1 to 3 years.”
Many pills have been found to be contaminated 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. Reid’s Slim Sense because it contains lorcaserin, which can cause psychotic disorders and disturbances in attention and memory. The entity issued its withdrawal order and the company could not be reached for comment.
“Unscrupulous manufacturers are willing to risk consumer health, and are mixing their products with illegal pharmaceutical ingredients, steroids, over-the-counter stimulants and even experimental stimulants,” said Brian Austin, founding director of the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders. disorder, or STRIPED, which supports restriction. “Consumers have no idea that’s what these types of products contain.”
STRIPED is a public health initiative based at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital.
The Natural Products Association, a trade group representing the industry, disputes that diet pills cause eating disorders, citing a lack of consumer complaints about the products’ adverse effects to FDA members. “According to FDA data, there is no relationship between the two,” said Kyle Turk, the association’s director of government affairs.
The association maintains that its members adhere to safe manufacturing processes, random product testing and sound marketing guidelines. Representatives are also concerned that if minors are unable to purchase supplements without a prescription, they may purchase them from “criminals” on the black market and undermine the integrity of the industry. Under the bill, minors purchasing weight-loss products must present identification along with a prescription.
Not all business groups oppose the ban. The American Herbal Products Association, a trade group representing manufacturers and retailers of dietary supplements, stopped opposing the California bill when it was amended to remove categories of ingredients found in non-dietary supplements and vitamins, according to Robert Marriott, its director of regulatory affairs. being that
Child advocates have found a worrying trend among young people imagining their ideal body type based on what they see on social media. According to a study conducted by Fairplay, a non-profit organization that seeks to stop harmful marketing practices targeting children, it was found that children under the age of 9 followed three or more eating disorder accounts on Instagram, while the average age was 19. The authors call this the “pro-eating disorder bubble.”
Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, said the report lacked seriousness, such as acknowledging people’s need to share life’s difficult moments. The agency maintains that blanket censorship is not the answer.
“Safety experts and organizations have told us it’s important to find a balance while removing content that encourages or promotes eating disorders and allowing people to share their personal stories,” Meta spokeswoman Lisa Crenshaw said in an email.
Dr. Jason Nagata, a pediatrician who cares for children and young adults with life-threatening eating disorders, believes that easy access to diet pills contributes to the condition of his patients at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. This was the case with one of his patients, an 11-year-old starving girl.
“I was basically starving because I wasn’t getting enough nutrition,” said Nagata, who testified in support of the California bill. “I was taking these pills and other extreme behaviors to lose weight.”
Nagata said she’s seen the number of eating disorder patients triple since the epidemic began. They are desperate for diet pills, with some modest results. “We have had patients who were so dependent on these products that they were hospitalized and kept ordering these products from Amazon,” he said.
Public health advocates have 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 intervene unless there is a clear problem of consumer harm,” Austin said.
Failing to stand up to heavy pressure from the supplement industry on Capitol Hill, public health advocates have chosen to focus on the states. However, there is pressure for the FDA to improve oversight of what goes into diet pills.
US Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois introduced a bill in April that would require dietary supplement manufacturers to register their products, including ingredients, with the regulator.
Its proponents say the change is necessary because manufacturers are known to include dangerous ingredients. University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy C. Michael White, in a review of a health fraud database, found that 35% of fraudulent health products came from weight loss supplements.
Some ingredients are banned, such as sibutramine, a stimulant. “It’s a widely used weight-loss supplement that was pulled from the U.S. market because of its high risk of 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 in 1999 and banned. “It’s inconceivable that that product is still on the U.S. market,” he said.
This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, the editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.
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