The attorney general says the clinics all advertised hCG as a prescription hormone for weight loss, but the drug has never been approved by the FDA as a weight-loss drug.
You are looking at what some claim to be a miracle drug for those struggling to lose weight: hCG, coupled with a 500-calorie diet, is being touted as a product that works.
"You want to make sure you are dealing with real hCG and just get ready to lose some weight," Equilibrium Clinic Director Donna Pontello said.
Pontello says hCG is helping her patients get their weight under control and changing lives in the process.
"We are getting people off blood pressure meds, cholesterol medication, just within a month or so; their weight is improving, their health is improving, their quality of life is definitely improving," she said.
But there is a problem; hCG is being advertised by some Texas weight-loss clinics as a pound-shedding product. The FDA does not regulate the drug for that purpose.
"hCG is FDA regulated for fertility and male testosterone issues, it is not FDA regulated for weight loss," UTHealth Registered Dietitian Carol Wolin-Riklin said.
The Texas attorney general says now more than a dozen Texas weight-loss clinics have agreed to stop marketing the drug improperly. The AG ruling does not say hCG is not effective for controlling weight, only that it cannot be advertised as such. Patients will still be able to find hCG and use it.
Patients at Equilibrium sign a consent form before getting hCG that explains the drug is being used for something other than the intended purpose.
"They absolutely have to sign this, and they are OK with it. They get it, they've studied it and they have done their research," Pontello said.
The Texas AG also told a distributor of over the counter hCG it must change the way it markets their version of hCG, adding there are no approved over-the-counter hCG products.
The AG is not saying the drug is dangerous, just that the marketing must change because it is not FDA approved for weight loss. As for patients, they can still get hCG for weight loss. Several medications are used in many different ways other than the intended use and doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs for non-approved purposes, but they cannot advertise a drug as doing something not approved by the FDA.