Hundreds of Dietary Supplements Are Tainted with Prescription Drugs

Modesto Morganelli
Ottobre 13, 2018

The review of a Food and Drug Administration database of contaminated supplements for the years 2007 to 2016 most commonly turned up sildenafil - the drug sold as Viagra - and other erectile dysfunction drugs in sex enhancement products; sibutramine and the laxative phenolphthalein, both banned by the FDA, in weight loss supplements; and steroids or their analogues in muscle-building products.

Researchers found unapproved and sometimes unsafe drugs in 746 dietary supplements, nearly all of them marketed for sexual enhancement, weight loss or muscle growth, a new analysis published Friday shows.

Some of these contained a cut-rate downgrade of the advertised ingredients, but of much more grave concern, numerous supplements that were marketed as 'natural, ' contained often-experimental versions of pharmaceutical drugs. Pop a pill that contains a drug that lowers your blood pressure, and if you happen to suffer from low blood pressure already, the consequences of this lack of oversight could be dire.

The drugs found in the supplements have "the potential to cause serious adverse health effects owing to accidental misuse, overuse or interaction with other medications, underlying health conditions or other pharmaceuticals", the researchers wrote.

It's unclear exactly why these products weren't recalled.

Thanks to the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, dietary supplements are classified as food rather than drugs, and are thus not subjected to the same stringent standards for premarket safety and effectiveness.

In 2017, supplements were a $13.4 billion industry - and the market is only predicted to continue to climb. They're saying it's a supplement.

Cohen, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, believes that "more than FDA action will be required to ensure that all adulterated supplements are effectively and swiftly removed from the market".

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.

Yet over the last decade, more than 750 supplement brands have been found to be tainted with drugs-sometimes containing two or more hidden drug ingredients, a new study finds.

Many adults have incorporated dietary supplements into their daily routines as a means of incorporating more vitamins, minerals, or herbs into their diets.

"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", said Egel. He cited a 2014 study that he and others conducted that found 20 of 27 supplements were still adulterated with drugs and available for purchase between eight and 52 months after they were recalled by the FDA. Or the FDA may have contacted these companies, but they refused to voluntarily recall their products.

A spokesman for the FDA said the agency would comment later Friday. For example, sibutramine can increase blood pressure or heart rate, which could be risky for people with a history of stroke or heart disease.

"There's just no way to interpret this other than the FDA is simply not doing its job", Cohen said. Cohen advises consumers to speak with their doctor before they start taking a supplement.

"As the dietary supplement industry continues to grow in the United States, it is essential to further address this significant public health issue", the authors concluded.

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