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Am J Public Health. 2013 Feb;103(2):220-5. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300962. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

Over-the-counter and out-of-control: legal strategies to protect youths from abusing products for weight control.

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  • 1Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8369, USA.


Abuse of widely available, over-the-counter drugs and supplements such as laxatives and diet pills for weight control by youths is well documented in the epidemiological literature. Many such products are not medically recommended for healthy weight control or are especially susceptible to abuse, and their misuse can result in serious health consequences. We analyzed the government's role in regulating these products to protect public health. We examined federal and state regulatory authority, and referred to international examples to inform our analysis. Several legal interventions are indicated to protect youths, including increased warnings and restrictions on access through behind-the-counter placement or age verification. We suggest future directions for governments internationally to address this pervasive public health problem.

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