FDA warns consumers of counterfeit version of diet drug

As the snow falls Thursday, Ronnie Murphy sells umbrellas for a bargain price of $3 near the Market Street subway on 15th Street. (Sarah Schu / Staff Photographer)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued a warning for consumers to be on the watch for counterfeit, and potentially dangerous, versions of the over-the-counter diet drug Alli.

The fake capsules of the drug (orlistat) that is made by GlaxoSmithKline – a prescription version sold as Xenical is made by Swiss-based Roche – contain a white powder while the real version has small white pellets. The FDA notice stated that the counterfeit drugs contain a stimulant that can sometimes cause fatal side effects, especially for people with heart problems.

Orlistat is intended for use with patient specific low-calorie, low-fat diet programs that include an exercise regimen. The drug works by stopping the intestines from absorbing some of the fat in food. The most common side effect of the medication is a change in bowel movements. More serious side effects include hives, difficulty breathing and severe abdominal pain.