Prescription drugs keep popping up in dietary supplements

Hidden drugs and danger lurk in over-the-counter supplements study finds

Hidden drugs and danger lurk in over-the-counter supplements study finds

"The drug ingredients have the potential to cause serious adverse health effects due to misuse, overuse, or interaction with other medications, underlying health conditions, or other pharmaceuticals within the supplement", Corey Egel with the California Department of Public Health told IFLScience.

Between 2007 and 2016, FDA chemists found that 776 supplements were 'adulterated, ' meaning they contained different ingredients than what was advertised on their labels.

The presence of unknown drugs in supplements "poses a serious public health risk", the researchers wrote.More than 50 percent of the USA population consumes dietary supplements, and many consumers mistakenly believe the products are carefully regulated and accurately labeled.

Experts are hitting back at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for letting these tainted products slip onto and stay on the market, calling the study evidence of a 'dereliction of duty'.

Though the FDA "has other enforcement tools at its disposal", the new study is consistent with previous research showing "major deficiencies in the FDA's regulation of supplements", wrote Cohen, who was not involved in this study. Most of the products were marketed for sexual enhancement (45 percent), weight loss (40.9 percent), or muscle building (nearly 12 percent), some of which were manufactured by companies "even after the prior public FDA warnings". But more than 20% had two or more.

More than half of American adults say they use dietary supplements - which include vitamins, minerals, botanicals, amino acids, and enzymes not meant to treat or prevent disease - amounting to a $35 billion industry. "The current study demonstrates that there are hundreds of brands of adulterated supplements that have not been recalled, but the FDA has only once used their mandatory recall authority to recall an adulterated supplement", he said.

Study Limitations: Analysis was independent of FDA involvement; total number and variety of products tested by the FDA each year are unknown; and findings are limited to drugs for which the FDA tested. And "all of the ones that are not recalled will remain on the market.' It's unclear exactly why these products weren't recalled".

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He questioned the effectiveness of voluntary recalls - the most common approach by the FDA. According to data, the FDA sent warnings to the companies, with 28 products being named twice or thrice as adulterated products.

Dr Cohen says that the FDA could claim that it's short-staffed, but 'the [testing] work is being done, it's just not being followed up'. For example, sibutramine can increase blood pressure or heart rate, which could be risky for people with a history of stroke or heart disease.

And here's the database where you can see which supplements are on the FDA's naughty list - but be warned, the list only includes a small fraction of the potentially hazardous products with hidden ingredients marketed to consumers on the internet and in retail establishments, notes the FDA.

Federal law does not require dietary supplements to be proven safe to FDA's satisfaction before they are marketed. That way, each supplement would have a registration code to identify it, which would allow the FDA to know exactly what supplements are being sold in the country.

Kumar and colleagues found that among the adulterated supplements, almost 80% contained at least one hidden, unapproved ingredient, while 16% contained at least two ingredients. But in the meantime, there are steps consumers can take to protect themselves from tainted supplements.

Men precluded from taking erectile dysfunction drugs may turn to these supplements, not realizing that they are getting the very same pharmaceuticals, they said.

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