Your Health

Avoid Online Auctions When Buying Alli

If you've thought about trying the weight-loss aid Alli, you might want to skip eBay and buy the nonprescription medicine at the drugstore, even if you have to pay full price.

Over-the-counter weight loss drug, Alli. i i

Looking for Alli? You may not get what you bargained for online. Chris Hondros/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Over-the-counter weight loss drug, Alli.

Looking for Alli? You may not get what you bargained for online.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers about counterfeit versions of the medicine being sold to bargain-hunters online. The fake Alli contains an undisclosed, prescription-strength appetite suppressant with its own risks.

Alli, which works by blocking the body's absorption of fat from food, has created controversy in the past due to some, um, unpleasant, gastrointestinal side effects, but has gained some popularity since being offered for sale without a prescription in 2007.

GlaxoSmithKline, marketer of the Alli, began to receive reports of counterfeits in December of last year, the FDA said. The company concluded that the fakes had been sold through online auction sites.

"People can sell pretty much anything they want on sites such as eBay," Melissa Dunn, a Glaxo spokeswoman, told Shots. "It's an auction site. People go looking for medicines as much as they do for other kinds of products."

The trouble is that the phony Alli has been found to contain sibutramine, an appetite suppressant, instead of Alli's actual active ingredient, orlistat. Sibutramine, which hasn't been approved for over-the-counter use, can increase risk for heart attack and stroke. It can also interact harmfully with other medications.

Both the FDA and Glaxo are asking consumers to be wary and report any Alli they may suspect as counterfeit. For clues about authenticity, such as bottle size and pill contents, check the FDA's statement.