Health Canada advises that the drug hCG is not authorized or proven effective for weight loss

Starting date:
January 19, 2017
Type of communication:
Information Update
Subcategory:
Drugs
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Identification number:
RA-61896

OTTAWA – At this time of year, when some are considering weight loss options, Health Canada wishes to advise Canadians that hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is not authorized or proven as a weight loss aid, and could pose serious health risks.

hCG is a prescription drug authorized in Canada as an injectable for the treatment of hormone-related conditions such as infertility. It should be used only under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

Health Canada has received several complaints that clinics across Canada are advertising hCG for weight loss, which is an unauthorized use. In these cases, products were often promoted as part of a severe calorie-reduced weight loss plan.

Health Canada is not aware of any substantial scientific evidence that hCG is effective for weight loss, that it redistributes fat, or that it reduces appetite or the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.

Risks associated with hCG—whether used for authorized indications or weight loss—include: blood clots; depression; hyper-stimulation of the ovaries (which can lead to severely enlarged and painful cysts and abdominal distension, difficulty breathing and life-threatening imbalances in blood volume), multiple pregnancy (two or more babies in the uterus) and false pregnancy tests in women; and fluid retention and gynecomastia (breast enlargement) in men.

Health Canada has taken action to address the complaints and will take action if we identify any further non-compliance with the Food and Drugs Act and/or its Regulations. Health Canada has also issued a letter to the provincial and territorial colleges of physicians and surgeons, naturopaths and pharmacy associations, to reinforce the federal regulatory requirements related to the advertising of hCG.

What you should do

  • Talk to your health care professional or a dietitian if you are considering starting a special diet.
  • Learn how to minimize your risks when considering health products for weight management.
  • Be skeptical about advertising claims for weight-loss products. If a product sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Report adverse events to health products to Health Canada by calling toll-free at 1 866 234-2345, or by reporting online, by mail or by fax.
  • Report complaints about health products, including hCG products being promoted for weight loss, to Health Canada by calling toll-free at 1-800-267-9675, or complete an online complaint form.

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