FDA Calls Bullshit on “Miracle” Diet Pill From China

Apr 09, 2014 at 7:31 AM ET

If you’re the kind of person who takes an unregulated supplement from China that claims to “eradicate fat,” “reshape your body,” “clear the skin of blemishes” and “give you a boost of energy,” all with “no known side effects,” then you better sit down, because like most things that are inherently obvious to other people, this is going to be a real shocker for you. This week, the FDA announced that Zi Xiu Tang Bee Pollen, a dubious “herbal” weight-loss capsule, has been found to contain harmful active pharmaceutical ingredients—conveniently left off the label—that may cause serious health risks.

One substance found in the bee pill, sibutramine, was removed from all U.S. markets in 2010 after it was found to substantially increase blood pressure and cause heart issues in some patients. Another, phenolphthalein, has been shown to be cancerous.

The FDA says it has received numerous complaints about the supplement’s adverse side effects,  including “heart palpitations, tachycardia (increased heart rate), suicidal thoughts, chest pain, diarrhea, anxiety, insomnia, increased blood pressure and seizure.” And all you wanted to do was shed some pounds before your sister’s wedding.

The potentially hazardous weight-loss aid is distributed by the China-based Guangzhou ZiXiuTang Bio-Tech Company, “a premier producer of holistic Chinese medicines,” but is sold in the U.S. through janky websites run by middle-aged moms with hammy sob stories about how the drug changed their lives. Kind of like an underground Mary Kay network for shady diet products.

Though many, many similar fat-shedding pills have been shown to have harmful and even fatal effects in the past (PhenFen anyone?), hundreds of thousands of undeterred customers have apparently sought out Zi Xiu Tang to help them drop their muffin tops. A quick survey of the Facebook pages of various pollen pushers reveal thousands of people (OK, women) desperate to get their hands on the stuff, which has been more or less available in the U.S. since 2007. Hidden among the cheery before-and-after stories (“I lost 20 pounds in a month!”) are more than a few ominous posts like this, on “Bee Pollen Miracle NJ.”

“I started using this product and I am losing weight but now I am having problems with my blood pressure what should I do.”

And this, on “Bee a Thinner You:”

“I tried this in the spring & thought I was going to die!!!!! I had nausea, headache I was so sick… This time it was worse had all same symptoms except also was accompanied with heart plantations & they lasted for about 2 weeks after I stopped using it!!!!!!! My friend Tina & Denise also tried it & got ill from this product. I do NOT recommend this at all… LEAVE THE PILLS ALONE!!!!!!!!”

Still interested? Better act fast. The FDA is currently investigating Zi Xiu Tang distribution in the U.S., and may press criminal charges soon.