Posted by William on June 3, 2010
HERBAL “PHEN-FEN”: A POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SCAM
Unscrupulous herb distributors have recently been cashing in on the fact that the diet drug fenfluramine has been pulled from the market. There are now many products combining St. John’s wort with either Ma Huang (Chinese ephedra) or phenylalanine being sold as the herbal equivalent of “Phen-Fen” (phentermine and fenfluramine).
I regard these products as unsafe and believe they should be pulled from the market.
This marketing ploy is based on the idea that the “Phen-fen” regimen combined an agent that increases serotonin (fenfluramine) with an agent that that is a stimulant and increases norepinephrine and dopamine (phentermine). Thus, since St. John’s wort supposedly is serotonergic and Ma Huang (which contains ephedrine and pseudoephedrine) is a stimulant, these promoters are claiming that these products will help with weight loss.
Unfortunately, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are among the most common causes of stroke when given with MAO inhibitors. Given that we cannot guarantee the contents of any herbal product in the U.S., and given that whole and/or improperly extracted St. John’s wort contains an MAOI, this is a classic set up for MAOI related strokes and deaths.
There are also no studies on any of these substances for weight loss and therefore all claims that “herbal phen-fen” is effective for weight loss are unfounded.