Alli is made by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and sold over-the-counter (OTC) in retail stores as a weight- loss aid.
Monday, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers that the Alli they think they are buying may be a fake.
The counterfeit version was recent sold over the Internet, primarily on eBay, and GSK started receiving complaints about the bogus Alli last month.
The counterfeit version is sold in 60-miligram capsules sold in a 120-count refill kit. The counterfeit product does not contain the active ingredient in Alli, orlistat, that prevents the absorption of fats from the human diet, therefore reducing caloric intake.
Instead the bogus Alli contains sibutramine, which is the active ingredient contained in rival weight-loss drug sold by prescription, Meridia, made by Abbott Laboratories.
Certain people should not use sibutramine, says the FDA in a statement. The drug can also interact with other medications. Alli is supposed to be taken three times a day, while the Meridia version is taken just once daily.
Last August, the FDA investigated whether the over-the-counter (OTC) weight loss drug, orlistat (as Alli), and by prescription, (as Xenical) can cause liver damage.
What Consumers Can Look For
There are other differences.
The counterfeit Alli is missing the “Lot” code and that counterfeit product has an expiration date that includes the month, day and year.
Authentic Alli just contains an expiration date of the month and year such as 5/12, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The foil seal should read “sealed for your protection” in white ink in the authentic Alli, while the counterfeit version doesn’t contain any printing. Also the capsule size of the counterfeit drug is larger than the real Alli and the contents are powdery.
Alli’s contents are more pellet-like.
The FDA has also warned consumers about buying unapproved and illegal swine flu products over the Internet. That warning came last October, after FDA investigators bought a drug represented to be Tamiflu, which turned out to be a fraud.
In all about 7.5 million people use Alli daily. Taken with fat, it is designed to limit about one-quarter of fat absorption. It has unpleasant side effects of creating gastrointestinal problems in some people.
It remains the only FDA-approved OTC weight loss product and is a weaker version of Xenical, a prescription drug marketed by Roche Holding AG. #