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Quack Medicines Cost Obese Patients Billions of Dollars

Marketed as foods instead of drugs, they circumvent need for evidence-based research

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 26 (HealthDay News) -- "Health foods" marketed as weight-loss aids are costing obese and overweight consumers billions of dollars for unproven results, according to an editorial published online Nov. 25 in BMJ.

Michael E.J. Lean, M.D., of the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, writes that such products are hugely profitable, and are able to avoid the stringent requirements imposed on drugs by being marketed as food supplements. He notes that consumers in the United States spent $35 billion on weight-loss products in 2000, and that every year 7 percent of the population buys them.

New regulations introduced earlier this year in the European Union will help protect consumers in member states by obliging businesses not to make claims that cannot be substantiated, and otherwise mislead consumers, the author writes.

"Of hundreds of products on sale, only appropriately delivered diets and exercise, orlistat, sibutramine and bariatric surgery are safe, efficacious and cost effective. The remainder should not be marketed until we have evidence for their effectiveness and safety," Lean writes. "Nothing justifies the commercial exploitation of vulnerable patients with quack medicines. The new regulations provide good legislation to protect vulnerable consumers from misleading 'health food' claims. They now need to be enforced proactively to help direct doctors and consumers towards safe, cost effective, and evidence-based management of diseases."


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