Age limits for diet pills are monitored by NY and CA

ByDonald L. Leech

Sep 17, 2022

This article was originally published on KHN.

California and New York are set to go further than the FDA in restricting the sale of non-prescription diet pills to minors as pediatricians and public health advocates try to protect children from weight-loss gimmicks. extreme weight online.

A bill introduced to Governor Gavin Newsom would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 in California from buying over-the-counter weight loss supplements — whether online or in stores — without a prescription. A similar bill passed by New York lawmakers is on Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk. Neither Democrat has indicated how they will act.

If both bills are signed into law, supporters hope momentum will build to restrict sales of diet pills to children in more states. Massachusetts, New Jersey and Missouri have introduced similar bills, and funders plan to continue their efforts next year.

nearly 30 million people in the United States will have an eating disorder in their lifetime; 95% of them are between the ages of 12 and 25, according to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. The hospital adds that eating disorders have the highest mortality risk of any mental health disorder. And it has become easier than ever for minors to obtain pills sold online or on the shelves of pharmacies. All dietary supplements, including those for weight loss, accounted for nearly 35% of the $63 billion over-the-counter health products industry in 2021, according to Vision Research Reports, a research firm of market.

Dietary supplements, which encompass a wide range of vitamins, herbs and minerals, are classified by the FDA as foods and are not subject to scientific and safety testing like prescription drugs and prescription drugs do. free sale.

Public health advocates want to keep weight loss products — with ads that can promise to “lose 5 pounds a week!” and pill names like Slim Sense – away from young people, especially girls, since some research has linked certain products to eating disorders. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health, which followed more than 10,000 women between the ages of 14 and 36 over 15 years, found that “those who used diet pills had more than 5 times the adjusted odds of being diagnosed with an eating disorder by a doctor. provider within 1 to 3 years than those who did not.

Many pills have been found contaminated with banned and dangerous ingredients that can cause cancer, heart attacks, strokes and other ailments. For example, the FDA has advised the public to avoid Dr. Reade’s Slim Sense because it contains lorcaserin, which has been shown to cause psychiatric disorders and disturbances in attention or memory. The FDA ordered it shut down, and the company could not be reached for comment.

“Unscrupulous manufacturers are willing to take risks with consumers’ health – and they mix their products with illegal pharmaceuticals, banned pharmaceuticals, steroids, excessive stimulants, even experimental stimulants,” said Bryn Austin. , founding director of the Strategic Training Initiative for Prevention. of Eating Disorders, or STRIPED, which supports restrictions. “Consumers have no idea that’s what’s in these types of products.”

STRIPED is a public health initiative based at 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 the lack of consumer complaints to the FDA about adverse effects of their members’ products. “According to FDA data, there is no association between the two,” said Kyle Turk, director of government affairs for the association.

The association maintains that its members adhere to safe manufacturing processes, random product testing, and proper marketing guidelines. Representatives are also concerned that if minors are unable to purchase over-the-counter supplements, they could buy them from “scammers” on the black market and undermine the integrity of the industry. According to the bills, minors who purchase weight-loss products must show identification as well as a 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 after it was amended to remove categories of ingredients found in non-dietary supplements and vitamins, according to Robert Marriott, director of regulatory affairs. .

Children’s advocates have seen disturbing trends among young people who view 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 end harmful marketing practices targeting children, children as young as 9 years old were found to follow three or more eating disorder accounts. on Instagram, when the median age was 19. The authors called it a “pro-eating disorder bubble.”

Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, said the report lacked nuance, such as recognizing the human need to share life’s difficult times. The company argues that general censorship is not the solution. “Experts and safety organizations have told us it’s important to strike a balance and allow people to share their personal stories while removing any content that encourages or promotes eating disorders,” Liza said. Crenshaw, spokesperson for Meta, in an email.

Dr. Jason Nagata, a pediatrician who cares for children and young adults with life-threatening eating disorders, believes easy access to diet pills is helping his patients’ condition at Children’s Hospital UCSF Benioff in San Francisco. Such was the case with one of his patients, an emaciated 11-year-old girl.

“She had basically gone into a state of starvation because she wasn’t getting enough food,” said Nagata, who provided testimony in support of the California bill. “She was taking these pills and using other types of extreme behaviors to lose weight.”

Nagata said the number of patients he sees with eating disorders has tripled since the pandemic began. They are desperate for diet pills, some with modest results. “We’ve had patients who have been so addicted to these products that they’ll be hospitalized and they’re still ordering these products from Amazon,” he said.

Public health advocates have turned to state legislatures in response to the federal government’s limited power to regulate diet pills. Under a 1994 federal law known as the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, the FDA “cannot intervene until there is a clear issue of consumer harm,” Austin said.

Not up to the supplement industry’s intense lobbying on Capitol Hill, public health advocates have shifted to a state-by-state approach.

There is, however, pressure for the FDA to improve oversight of what goes into diet pills. US Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois introduced a bill in April that would require supplement manufacturers to register their products, as well as ingredients, with the regulator.

Proponents say the change is necessary because manufacturers are known to include dangerous ingredients. C. Michael White of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy found that 35% of contaminated health products came from weight loss supplements during a review of a health fraud database.

A few ingredients have been banned, including sibutramine, a stimulant. “It was a very commonly used weight loss supplement that was eventually pulled from the US market due to its high risk of causing 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, “that this product would still be on the market American is simply inadmissible”.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with policy analysis and polls, KHN is one of the three main operating programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed non-profit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.