These hundreds of supplements include unapproved pharmaceuticals

Desiree Burns
October 13, 2018

Numerous adulterated muscle building products contained undeclared anabolic steroids, which, when abused, can lead to mental problems in the short term and kidney problems, liver damage and heart problems in the long term. During that period, 776 supplements marketed for muscle building, sexual enhancement, or weight loss were found to contain prescription drugs, such as the stimulant ephedrine, anabolic steroids, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and depression, as well as the active ingredients in erectile dysfunction drugs Viagra and Cialis, to name a few.

About 80 percent of the supplements were contaminated by one pharmaceutical that should not have been in the product.

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.

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.

Plus, 'the recalls aren't completely effective, but the FDA isn't even bothering to recall many of these products, ' he says. "The drug ingredients in these dietary 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 within the supplement".

Controversy over adulterated supplements stretches back decades. Under a 1994 law, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, the products are regulated as food and are therefore not subject to premarket safety and effectiveness testing imposed on pharmaceuticals. The $35 billion supplement market includes multivitamins, minerals, botanicals and other products.

Hundreds of over-the-counter supplements are laced with unapproved drugs, according to FDA tests - but the agency doesn't issue recalls on them, a new report reveals.

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In an interview, Daniel Fabricant, president of the Natural Products Association, a supplement industry trade group, said it is unfair to consider sexual enhancement, weight loss and muscle building products in the same category as traditional dietary supplements such as vitamins. He said these are fringe products, often made by fly-by-night manufacturers and sold on the Internet or in convenience stores. And if the supplement was found to be tainted, the agency could "deactivate" the code so consumers could not purchase it, Cohen said. They're saying it's a supplement. "It's not a supplement in any way, shape or form".

"Only 360 of 746 (48%) were recalled, leaving the majority of adulterated supplements, more than 350 products, available for sale", Cohen wrote in an editorial published with the study.

'Consumers should not think that this is a just a cheaper way to pick up their Viagra, though, ' Dr Pieter Cohen, a primary care doctor and professor at Harvard Medical School, who wrote a commentary accompanying the JAMA report told Daily Mail Online. 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. "The FDA didn't even bother to recall more than half of the potentially hazardous supplements". For example, sibutramine can increase blood pressure or heart rate, which could be risky for people with a history of stroke or heart disease. In those years, they found that one in five dietary supplements contained more than one drug ingredient.

"There's just no way to interpret this other than the FDA is simply not doing its job", Cohen said.

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

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