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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Can Skin Patches Really Help You Lose Weight?

Aired May 15, 2003 - 20:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Ephedra is just one of many products being marketed right now to weight-conscious Americans. You've probably seen the commercials for skin patches that are supposed to help users shed fat. Well the question is, Does that work?
We asked medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen to join us and she is in the CNN Center In Atlanta.

Good evening, Elizabeth. Does it work?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, does it work? You'll have to watch our piece to find out. So you need to stay tuned for the next two-and-a-half minutes.

But 64 percent of Americans, Anderson, are obese or overweight, and many of them are just desperate for a quick fix.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: The results are incredible.

COHEN: Could it really be this easy?

Look at these Web sites selling fat patches. They say, "Put it on and burn the fat."; "The miracle you've been waiting for."; "Lose two to four pounds per week."

KARLA JARRETT, VIM & VIGOR: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about the diet patch is that you can just put it on your skin. It's easy to use. No pills, no dieting.

COHEN: So do these things really work?

The patches contain seaweed and herbs. Many claim they stimulate the thyroid to boost metabolism.

We showed these Web sites to Jim Hill, a nutrition and weight loss and expert at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

JIM HILL, UNIV. OF COLORADO HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER: Putting a patch on isn't going to help you lose weight. People are wasting their time and their money on products that aren't going to give them success.

COHEN: Hill says people should be careful about taking products that claim to affect the thyroid.

HILL: I would be very leary of taking something that affected my thyroid, because it's equally likely it can affect it in a bad way.

JARRETT: You want to go ahead and try the patch?

COHEN: Karla Jarrett runs a company that sells patches. She and other people who sell these patches point to a study they say shows the patch works and is safe.

(on camera): But no one we asked could actually show us a published copy of the study or lead us to the doctor who wrote it. Usually finding the finding the author of a medical study is easy. But in this case, when we tried to locate the doctor, we couldn't find him or any trace of him.

(voice-over): Another company, which has since stopped running this ad, says other studies show their patch works when used as part of their four-part program that includes diet and exercise.

Hill says it's the diet and exercise that work, not the patch.

HILL: It's not easy. It's hard work. It takes time and it takes consistency.

COHEN: A message, it seems, Americans would rather not hear. Judging by the proliferation of patches, they'd rather hear about the quick, the easy and the effortless.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN: These patches are not inexpensive. A month's worth of diet patches will cost you somewhere between $30 and $60 -- Anderson.

COOPER: So does the government -- I mean, is there regulation on these kind of products?

COHEN: There is regulation for these kinds of products that you can buy over the Internet. However, it is not as strict as regulations that apply to drugs, either over-the-counter or the kind your doctor prescribes for you. And because the regulation isn't as strict, it isn't as easy for the FDA to simply yank these off the market.

The FDA has complained about these patches before. But all you have to do is do an Internet search to see there are plenty of companies that sell them. The FDA says they just don't have the resources to go after every single product.

COOPER: Never a good sign when you can't track down the doctor allegedly behind it all.

COHEN: Absolutely.

COOPER: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

COHEN: Thank you.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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