I also have known several people afflicted by bulimia and anorexia, and did quite a bit of research for a Psych project in college. My understanding of the two eating disorders is similar to that stated here:
What is the difference between anorexia and bulimia?
Anorexia is an illness that occurs mainly in teenage girls, although increasingly boys suffer from it too. People with anorexia are obsessed with being thin and are terrified of gaining weight. As a result, they starve themselves (especially avoiding high-calorie foods), and exercise obsessively until they become extremely thin and well below the normal weight for their age and height.
Bulimia usually affects women in their early to mid-twenties. People with bulimia are also terrified of gaining weight, but they can usually keep within a normal weight. This is because they eat very large amounts of fattening food (called 'bingeing'), but then get rid of that food by vomiting or by taking laxatives.
Now I'm sure there are exceptions and cases that are neither purely anorexia or bulimia, but the abuse of laxatives in eating disorders is more commonly associated with the "purge technique of choice" for bulimics.
In any case, we are having a futile disagreement here, because my point was more to address this statement of Dave's: metabolifie (and similar herbal concoctions) are really facilitators for the laxative abuse form of anorexia, and anything but safe.
Metabolife contained ephedra which is a stimulant and perhaps has an appetite suppressant action? I can see that anorexics typically take such to assist them in resisting the urge to eat and/or to improve their energy levels. But is it the fault of the manufacturers of Metabolife, Dexatrim (remember the phenopropanolamine thing a few years back?), Carb blockers, etc. that primarily young women develop eating disorders? The prime facilitators as I see it are the editors of the teen and women's magazines from whom every person I've ever known with an eating disorder has learned the tricks of the trade! At the age of 15 I didn't even know what a laxative was, I learned on the pages of Glamour and Self that these could be used to control one's weight and there were a lot of young women doing just that. It's banned now, I believe, but until I read it on the enlightening pages of those same magazines, I had never heard of Ipecac and its use to induce vomiting. I had at least two friends that tried one or the other of those "innocently" enough figuring they wouldn't get hooked that ended up fighting battles with bulimia for years.
I don't think bankrupting the makers of Metabolife will solve the two greater issues. Eating disorders are the product of our entire society, body image, etc., and I don't think the current hysteria about how everyone is obese is going to help that much at all.
The second issue is of regulating so-called "natural" or "herbal" supplements. Hemlock is natural so just because something occurs in nature doesn't make it good for you or safe. This argument has been around for as long as I can remember -- I recall when granola (high fat lots of "natural" sugar and/or honey) was assumed to be a healthy alternative to Frosted Flakes when indeed it really wasn't.
OTOH, lots of people don't want the FDA getting too involved in regulating substances because they can get much more economical relief from everything from high cholesterol to anxiety to colitis using herbal supplements. There has to be a better dialogue on this issue, liability, etc. Ephedra has been used for centuries for treating asthma and respiratory ailments. As with most herbal remedies, it has been discovered (long known) to be a stimulant and thus became popular in any number of diet aids. There have been a few high profile cases of problems associated with it's use, but the degree to which it was ABused in these cases, as opposed to used as directed is not often mentioned. However given the widespread use of ephedra-containing supplements, the incidents of major complications are actually quite low. I read an article by someone on a libertarian-leaning website of someone who had used ephedra to control her asthma, safely, for years and now has to find other means as a result of the ban now implemented. We have to balance our litigous vigor against the "evil of the day" with the potential benefit to many.
I don't really have an opinion as to the safety of Ephedra or various herbal supplements on the whole. My personal solution would be for the FDA or other entity to maintain a website or catalog of various herbs available to the public along with known side effects, etc. and buyer be responsible for educating themselves. I have no problem with such supplements sold specifically for medicinal purposes being restricted to those 18 y.o.a. and older. I also see no reason that such information could not be required in advertisements similar to the novellas that now accompany ads for Xenical and Phentermine, etc. The FDA or similar could maintain a standard database from which manufacturers can obtain and pass along the information. JMO.