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 - Since the diet-drug combination of fenfluramine and phenteramine, commonly known as fen-phen, has been withdrawn from the market (see MedicineNet's Doctor's View, ("September 19, 1997 Fen-Phen Combo Finished in FDA Finale"), people with an interest in promoting weight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

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




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