Beware of Herbal Phen-Fen!

Jacksonville, FLA. - Since the diet-drug combination of fenfluramine and phenteramine, commonly known as fen-phen, has been withdrawn from the market (see MedicineNet's Doctor's View, ("September 19, 1997 Fen-Phen Combo Finished in FDA Finale"), people with an interest in promoting weight loss may turn to Herbal Phen-Fen.

Herbal Phen-Fen is much easier to obtain than fen-phen ever was. As a "dietary supplement," Herbal Phen-Fen is available without prescription in drugstores, in health-food stores and from Nutri/System, a diet-program company. It costs about $10 a week.

The prescription combination consisted of fenfluramine, which raised the level of the chemical serotonin in the brain thereby making a consumer feel full and eat less, and phenteramine, which increased the metabolic rate so that the person burned up more calories.

Although a promotional brochure states that Herbal Phen-Fen is "just like" prescription fen-phen, this is not true. The September, 1997 issue of Consumer Reports notes that Herbal Phen-Fen is a "combination of extracts of Saint-John's-wort, a mood-boosting herb, and ma huang, a stimulant also known as ephedra."