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Late night commercials touted extreme weight loss associated with Hydroxycut, a product that, because of its “natural,” nonprescription ingredients, is not approved or monitored closely by the FDA.

Hydroxycut, which once included ephedra amongst its ingredients, has been associated with heart attacks and liver damage, and before multiple lawsuits were filed, the FDA took action in 2009 and eventually required a recall of certain formulations.

Risks and Warnings

Selling 9 million units, or 90 percent of all weight loss supplements, as of 2008, Hydroxycut has been advertised as a fat-burner, energy-enhancer, a low-carbohydrate diet aid, and solution for water loss. Although containing ephedra at one point, it was reformulated to include garcinia cambogia, a plant used as an appetite suppressant in Africa and Asia.

A small percentage of those purchasing Hydroxycut over the counter went onto experience a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Jaundice
  • Brown urine
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Stomach or abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Rhabdomyolysis muscle damage
  • Kidney and liver failure

After 23 reports of health problems, including one death and one liver transplant, the FDA advised consumers in May 2009 to stop using Hydroxycut. Manufacturer Iovate Health Sciences then followed the warning by voluntarily recalling several products:

  • Hydroxycut Regular Rapid Release Caplets
  • Hydroxycut Caffeine-Free Rapid Release Caplets
  • Hydroxycut Hardcore Liquid Caplets
  • Hydroxycut Max Liquid Caplets
  • Hydroxycut Regular Drink Packets
  • Hydroxycut Caffeine-Free Drink Packets
  • Hydroxycut Hardcore Drink Packets (Ignition Stix)
  • Hydroxycut Max Drink Packets
  • Hydroxycut Liquid Shots
  • Hydroxycut Hardcore RTDs (Ready-to-Drink)
  • Hydroxycut Max Aqua Shed
  • Hydroxycut 24
  • Hydroxycut Carb Control
  • Hydroxycut Natural

Patients who experienced any of the above symptoms as a result of the recalled products are advised to consult with their physicians.

Legal Action

While a new, reformulated version with some ingredients removed still exists on the market, Hydroxycut has been the subject of two major lawsuits.

In one, the FTC settled with Iovate in 2010 for allegations of false advertisements. Court documents show that Iovate claimed in its commercials Hydroxycut would help consumers lose weight, treat, or prevent colds and other illnesses. As well, the company used such language as “clinically proven,” “lose weight fast,” “with unwanted side effects,” and “backed by science,” without studies proving its safety or effectiveness.

As a result, Iovate agreed to pay $5.5 million and stopped its deceptive advertising practices.

A second lawsuit targeted the associated side effects, for which no warnings prior to the FDA’s were given. Plaintiffs who purchased and used Hydroxycut between 2006 and 2009 went after Iovate and several retailers that continued to sell the product even after the recall, including GNC, Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, CVS, Vitamin Shoppe, and Rite-Aid.

In this particular class action lawsuit, Iovate settled for $23.5 million. Consumers are still eligible to take advantage of the settlement.

A lack of regulation coupled with false advertising claims makes Hydroxycut and similar weight loss products particularly deadly – and a high risk for unsuspecting consumers looking to innocuously lose a few pounds. If you had purchased Hydroxycut without being aware of the side effects, by believing the advertisements, or after it had been recalled, you may be eligible to take part in an existing claim.

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