Unapproved, Sometimes Dangerous Drugs Found In Dietary Supplements

Study Nearly 800 dietary supplements contained unapproved drug ingredients

Study Nearly 800 dietary supplements contained unapproved drug ingredients

In an analysis of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, researchers of a new study published in JAMA Network Open found that almost 800 dietary supplements were found to be adulterated with unapproved drugs. The supplements aren't classified by the FDA as drugs, but are considered foods.

Researchers from the California Department of Public Health found that, from 2007 to 2016, 776 products marketed as dietary supplements contained hidden ingredients that are unsafe or unstudied.

Most supplement consumers wrongly believe that the products they are purchasing are regulated or vetted in some way. Cohen wasn't involved in the study but wrote a commentary published alongside the research.

The research was based on a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) database that identifies "tainted" supps, those which contain ingredients not actually listed on the label.

If you choose to take an over-the-counter supplement for weight loss, muscle-building, or even sexual enhancement, you probably trust what it says on the bottle. Over 150 of the tested supplements contained more than one unapproved ingredient.

Most of the adulterated products, about 45 per cent, were marketed for sexual enhancement, weight loss (about 41 per cent) or muscle-building (12 per cent). Out of 750 stated dietary supplements have been recalled around 48%. Mostly, women who want to lose weight, quite often come across "on the hook" to enterprising sellers of dietary Supplements and later become victims of serious health problems. Of the 776 adulterated supplements identified, the FDA requested a voluntary recall of fewer than half (46.4 percent). "The study lays a foundation for ongoing enforcement work in this area, by the FDA and other partner agencies, to curb the illegal manufacture, importation, distribution and sales of adulterated dietary supplements", department spokesman Corey Egel said in an email.

"There's just no way to interpret this other than the FDA is simply not doing its job", Cohen said. Further, products containing stimulants such as sibutramine can pose "a risk to patients with a history of heart disease or stroke".

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According to the paper, previous research has found that dietary supplement use was associated with 23,000 trips to the emergency room and 2,000 hospitalizations in the USA annually.

They also noted that another study found that 23,000 emergency visits per year are due to supplements. If the company refuses to recall the product, the agency should follow up with aggressive actions to make sure the product is not available to consumers.

So, what did the FDA do about these supplements? 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.

"Over the past decade, ever since I first began tracking the problem, I have only seen the number of supplements adulterated with drugs increase rapidly", said Dr. Pieter Cohen.

But in the meantime, there are steps consumers can take to protect themselves from tainted supplements.

"If your doctor doesn't advise supplements for your health, then they will likely not help you", Cohen stressed. Many dietary supplements, such as vitamins, are risk-free, but the same can't be said about the vast majority of sex, weight loss, and bodybuilding supplements - it is these categories that should be targeted for regulation.

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