Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel is calling on the FDA to take action to universally ban "gas station heroin" – a legal over-the-counter drug sold in most states across the country.
Tianeptine, commonly sold as "ZaZa Red" or "Tianna Red," is readily available at gas stations, bodegas and grocery stores marketed as a dietary supplement. Dr. Siegel, however, warned on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" that the drug "works like an opioid" and can have dangerous consequences.
"People are overdosing," Dr. Siegel said Tuesday. "There’s plenty of calls to poison centers. Doctors can do nothing about it."
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The FDA has not approved tianeptine for any medical use and issued warnings that the drug is an "unsafe food additive." The drug, however, is only banned in six states.
Dr. Siegel said the FDA must act to protect Americans.
"They know how dangerous this is, but they are not banning this," he said.
In a 2018 report, the Center for Disease Control noted an increase in calls to poison control centers related to tianeptine between 2000 and 2017 suggests a "possible emerging public health risk."
"The associated health effects included neurologic, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal signs and symptoms, with some effects mimicking opioid toxicity and withdrawal," the report stated.
Dr. Siegel added that tianeptine affects the opioid receptors in the user’s brain despite being commonly advertised as an anti-depressant.
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"It works as an opioid like heroin, and there's nothing that anyone can do about it," he said.
The FDA has advised consumers to avoid products containing tianeptine and provided resources for those seeking help or alternative approved treatments.
"We have issued warning letters to companies illegally marketing tianeptine products as dietary supplements and unapproved drugs. We also have issued import alerts to help stop tianeptine shipments at our borders," the FDA report stated. "The FDA will continue to take regulatory action to discourage the importation and marketing of unapproved tianeptine products."
But Dr. Siegel argued the FDA has not gone far enough as America battles a drug epidemic.
"We have a pill-popping society," he said. "Yes, doctors are responsible for a lot of it, but this stuff is over-the-counter."