Study Finds Drugs Posing as Supplements May Contain Hazardous Ingredients

Posted on September 1, 2011

The New York Times has done a special series of reports on products that escape U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation and are sold to the unsuspecting public, wrapped in promises of weight loss, muscle, and sexual enhancements. Often these are sold in health food stores or ethnic grocery stores.

In one case, Pai You Guo, was advertised as a natural weight loss supplement from China but federal investigators found it contained a suspected carcinogen. That product was recalled in 2009 but the damage left behind by unchecked supplements cannot be. Kidney failure, addiction, and heart problems are seen from some dietary supplements, according to Dr. Cohen, an internist and assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School interviewed for this story.

There’s no doubt supplements are big business. Legal supplements, multivitamins and herbs cost Americans $28.1 billion last year, according to The Nutrition Business Journal. Most supplements are made by reputable companies and self-regulate according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade group for supplement makers. However millions more are spent on supplements containing amphetamines, steroids and even prescription drugs. And sometimes these find their way into the major chains such as GNC which carried for a short while a weight-loss product, StarCaps, which contained a powerful diuretic drug. The weight loss drug, sibutramine, which is the appetite suppressant in Meridia has been found in other supplements even though it was removed from the market in the U.S. because of a link to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.

It’s the growing availability of tainted products overseas that is the biggest problem. The FDA does not inspect overseas raw ingredients suppliers. All a manufacturer has to do to import into the U.S. is to claim theirs is a supplement.

The picture may be improving. The industry closely regulates itself and three years ago new federal rules required supplement makers to certify each ingredient in their supplement and to test the finished good to make sure they match the label. The buyer needs to beware and buy from respected established brands and stay away from a quick fix, which may be someone’s ticket to a quick buck. Should an injury occur or serious adverse effects be suffered, consumers are advised to consult with a dangerous drug lawyer in Florida to learn more about their legal options.


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