What’s Actually in Your Dietary Supplements? Maybe Drugs, Study Says

What’s Actually in Your Dietary Supplements? Maybe Drugs Study SaysMore

The most common hidden drug ingredient in sexual enhancement supplements is sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, while the most common additive in weight loss supplements is banned weight-loss drug sibutramine, and synthetic steroid drugs for the muscle building supplements.

Results: Unapproved pharmaceutical ingredients were identified in 776 dietary supplements, a lot of them marketed for sexual enhancement, weight loss or muscle building; 20 percent of the products had more than one unapproved ingredient; and 28 products were named in two or three warnings. That means that these products-which are essentially "unapproved drugs"-remain on the market, where they have the potential to cause serious health problems, the researchers, from the California Department of Public Health, wrote in the study, published today (Oct. 12) in the journal JAMA Network Open".

"More than FDA action will be required to ensure that all adulterated supplements are effectively and swiftly removed from the market", Dr. Cohen wrote. Cohen was not involved with the research.

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.

In this quality improvement study, analysis of the US Food and Drug Administration warnings from 2007 through 2016 showed that unapproved pharmaceutical ingredients were identified in 776 dietary supplements, and these products were commonly marketed for sexual enhancement, weight loss, or muscle building. Overall, fewer than half (46 percent) of the adulterated supplement brands were recalled.

It should be noted that the findings are limited to drugs for which the FDA tested, a number and variety that is not disclosed in the study.

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However, in the past 5 years, the researchers said, there was a trend for the FDA to use "quick, more informal warning types", opting for more public notifications rather than voluntary recalls. It may be that the FDA wasn't able to reach the companies that made the tainted products to get them to issue a voluntary recall. 'There's just no way to interpret this other than the FDA is simply not doing its job, ' Cohen said.

Because they are not supposed to contain active pharmaceutical ingredients, the supplements don't have to be approved by the FDA before they hit the shelves.

The most common pharmaceutical ingredients detected in adulterated weight loss products were sibutramine, which was removed from the United States market in 2010 due to cardiovascular risks, and the laxative phenolphthalein. She noted that once an adulterated supplement is discovered, "the agency's primary objective is to mitigate any risk posed to public health by informing consumers about any dangers associated with the product and to work to remove it from the market as soon as possible".

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.

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. For instance, sibutramine may increase blood pressure and heart rate, so it could be particularly risky for a person with a history of stroke.

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. It remains unclear how effective these supplements, such as Vitamin D, the subject of a recent study, are to an individual's long-term health.

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