A short while ago I noted that eBay had many listings (well over 2,000 at the time) for products claiming to be slimming aids based on Human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone found during pregnancy in women. A study by Simeons suggested it could reduce feelings of hunger in those on extreme low calorie diets, but that research is now considered to have failed the test of reproducibility – in other words, as with most widely-discussed primary studies, it is wrong. There’s plenty of discussion of why many (probably most) published papers are actually wrong, see The New Scientist for an example.
As someone pointed out to me, anyone who thinks a pregnancy hormone might reduce appetite has clearly never met a pregnant woman!
USA Today has a fairly comprehensive story about the hCG diet scam: http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/fitness/weight-loss-challenge/2011-01-24-hcgdiet24_ST_N.htm
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a statement saying that hCG as a weight loss aid is fraudulent. Research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology concluded:
We conclude that there is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss of fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being.
The FDA warning that this is a dangerous and fraudulent treatment has not prevented it being sold as a weight loss aid via online marketplace eBay: http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=HCG
Two important facts:
- hCG is not licensed by the FDA (or any other known regulatory agency) for weight control; to promote or sell it for this in the USA is illegal.
- hCG is not included in the standard homeopathy references so sale of homeopathic hCG is also illegal.
Most of the listings of hCG (including homeopathic hCG) seem now to have been removed; a number of people made reports and I received this reply from eBay to an email (before they apparently removed the ability to email from the eBay help center interface):
I can confirm that the items which were listed on eBay.co.uk are no longer active on the site. However, there are few ones from eBay US, on which we cannot take action. Hence, I have forwarded them to trust and safety team of eBay US.
However, there are still some examples left which appear to have been crafted solely to avoid eBay’s listing guidelines alluded to above, guidelines which forbid the sale of pharmaceuticals not licensed for general over the counter sale.
- HCG Drops -Hormone FREE […] same results (example). Well, yes, I suspect it will get the same results, since the consensus is that hCG does not aid or promote weight loss, but that’s not what they are saying. This is a classic snake oil scam, a completely unevidenced claim to therapeutic effect. It’s not licensed as a drug and it’s not in the homeopathic pharmacopoeia, the special homeopathic bypass to the need for any of that tiresome evidence business. This contravenes eBay’s listing policy by implying that it is something it’s not, and because it’s an unlicensed medicinal product.
- HCG Drops WEIGHT LOSS Diet Success Guide FREE SUPPORT (example). This is a good example of keyword spamming. It’s designed to come up in searches for hCG but instead of selling hCG it’s flogging a “diet success guide”. How many will they sell? They don’t care because the major function of the listing is to promote the enormous and very prominent link to their website selling – you guessed it – hCG miracle diet products.
- *Real* HCG Supplement Program & STARTER KIT (example). These listings claim to be an hCG “starter kit” (whatever one of those might be) with the text “hCG sold separately” prominent on the listing. This contravenes eBay’s listing policy because it implies an off-eBay transaction for an illegal product to evade eBay’s listing policy – rather like “heroin syringes (heroin sold separately)”.
The number of listings for this fraudulent diet scam is down 75% in just a week. Freinds, please report these listings. It’s a scam, eBay has many scammers, fraudsters and cheats but that doesn’t mean we should ignore them when they arise.