DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE
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has been withdrawn from the market (see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
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
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
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."
There is enough ephedra in Herbal Phen-Fen to provide
40-60 milligrams of ephedrine alkaloid a day, according to Consumer
Reports. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants to limit
the amount of ephedrine alkaloid to 24 milligram per day and warn
people not to take it for more than a week. The reason: the FDA
has been investigating a number of deaths associated with products
that, like ephedra, contain ephedrine alkaloids.
The Medical Editors of MedicineNet agree fully with Consumer Reports in concluding that, "we suggest avoiding the potential risk of Herbal Phen-Fen."
Last Editorial Review: 7/25/2002