Health Canada comments on using HCG for weight loss
CTV News spoke to Health Canada about using HCG for weight loss. Here are the agency's responses to our questions:
Does Health Canada have any statement about the use of hCG for weight loss?
HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin) is authorized in Canada only for treatment of women with infertility, and only in an injectable form. There is no scientific evidence that the use of HCG either by mouth (as drops under the tongue, as advertised on the Internet) or as a self-administered injection, could promote weight loss.
When used to treat a condition for which it is not indicated, such as weight loss, Human Chorionic Gonatrophin could cause serious side-effects. In women this could include painful cysts occurring as the result of over-stimulation of the ovaries.
Human Chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is listed on Schedule F of the Food and Drug Regulations and as such is considered a prescription drug in Canada. Drugs that are authorised for sale in Canada will have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) on the label. The absence of a valid marketing authorization is considered a risk to health and safety. These eight digit numbers, preceded by the letters DIN signify that a product has been reviewed by Health Canada and found to have an acceptable risk/benefit profile for the conditions for which it was approved.
Health Canada regulates the sale of prescription drugs. It does not regulate the the prescribing or use of medicines. Medicines are sometimes used off-label which means using the medicine for reasons other than what has been approved. A physician's decision to use a particular medication off-label for an individual patient is part of the "practice of medicine," and is regulated by the local provincial colleges of physicians and surgeons. Should Health Canada become aware of a safety issue related to off-label use, this will be assessed and appropriate regulatory action will be taken.
Has Health Canada heard of any adverse reactions to hCG when it's used off-label?
In the past three years (January 1, 2008 to January 31, 2011), Health Canada has received 4 adverse reaction reports involving human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) as a suspect product.
Of the 4 reports, 3 stated that the HCG product was being used in the treatment of women with infertility, while 1 report did not indicate how the product was being used.
Adverse reaction reports are considered to be suspicions, since a definite causal association often cannot be determined. Additional scientific investigations are required before a cause-and-effect relationship can be established. An assessment of causality must include other factors such as the timing between the use of the product and the event, the possible contribution of other products/medication or therapies, the presence of an underlying disease, and the previous medical history of the individual, or any other factors that may have contributed to the reported health outcome. As well, accumulated case reports should not be used as a basis for determining the incidence of a reaction or estimating risk for a particular product as neither the total number of reactions occurring, nor the number of patients exposed to the health product is known.
Some people are purchasing hCG online. What are the concerns with this?
Human Chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) drugs that are authorized for sale in Canada will have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) on the label. The absence of a valid marketing authorization is considered a risk to health and safety. These eight digit numbers, preceded by the letters DIN signify that a product has been reviewed by Health Canada and found to have an acceptable risk/benefit profile for the conditions for which it was approved.
Health Canada will investigate complaints regarding web sites based in Canada to ensure that the advertising is consistent with market authorization and that only drugs approved for sale in Canada are available to Canadians. In Canada, the practice of pharmacy is regulated by the provincial regulatory authority. In order to determine if a particular pharmacy has the appropriate licences to operate within its province, please contact the College of Pharmacy in your province.
There are a number of pharmacies in Canada with legitimate websites offering a range of products and services. However, consumers are advised to exercise caution when purchasing drugs over the internet. For example, buying drugs from internet pharmacies that do not provide a street address and telephone number can pose serious concerns as patients have no way of knowing where the company is located, where it gets its drugs, what is in the drugs, and how to reach the pharmacy if there is a problem. Health Canada does warn consumers against buying drugs online from questionable sites, as the consumer might obtain counterfeit drugs with no active ingredients, drugs with the wrong ingredients, drugs with dangerous additives, or drugs past their expiry date. Even if these drugs do not harm you directly or immediately, the patient's condition may get worse without effective treatment.
Health Canada has posted a document on its website, informing Canadians about the issues with buying drugs over the Internet. This document can be found at the following link: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/med/internet-eng.php