The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission issued seven warning letters to companies marketing over-the-counter HCG products that are labeled "homeopathic" for weight loss.
Human chorionic gonadotropin, also known as HCG, is a hormone produced by the human placenta and found in the urine of pregnant women, the FDA said. HCG is FDA-approved for the treatment of some cases of female infertility and other medical conditions, but there is no FDA-approved HCG drug product for weight loss and there is no evidence that HCG helps in weight loss.
Homeopathy is a medical philosophy that believes the body can heal itself.
The letters warn the companies that they are violating federal law by selling drugs that haven't been approved and by making unsupported claims for the substances.
"Deceptive advertising about weight loss products is one of the most prevalent types of fraud," said David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Any advertiser who makes health claims about a product is required by federal law to back them up with competent and reliable scientific evidence."
The "homeopathic" HCG products recommend taking the drug while on a very low calorie diet, which could in fact result in increased risk for side effects, including gallstone formation, electrolyte imbalance, and heart arrhythmias, the FDA said.