800 dietary supplements contained unapproved drug ingredients

Leslie Hanson
October 17, 2018

The researchers performed the new analysis independent of the FDA.

But then there's this: "Even after FDA tests proved the supplements contained unapproved or recalled medications", reports NPR, "many of the products continued to be marketed and sold, the analysis finds". Discounting a number of multiple warning for some products, the researchers identified a total of 776 dietary supplements.

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. One supplement promoted as a treatment for arthritis - Pro ArthMax - was found to contain four different NSAIDs, as well as a muscle relaxant and a non-narcotic pain reliever that was never approved for use in the United States. Worst of all, some products contain unlabeled pharmaceuticals. Both of these drugs are phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors used to treat erectile dysfunction are the main ingredients in Viagra and Cialis. One additional drug, the laxative phenolphthalein, was also identified.

Numerous tainted supplements analysed in the study contained sildenafil (the active ingredient of Viagra) to boost their powers of sexual enhancement. For weight loss supplements, sibutramine was the most commonly found unapproved drug. Fluoxetine, also known by trade names Prozac and Sarafem, among others, is an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. 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.


Nearly 800 tainted warnings were issued during the review period for supplements manufactured by 147 different companies, though some involved multiple warnings about the same supplement, the study authors said. According to data, the FDA sent warnings to the companies, with 28 products being named twice or thrice as adulterated products.

"Back in 2009, it appeared that there might be less than 150 brands of supplements that contain drugs", he added. Of the 776 supplements that were identified to contain hidden ingredients, the FDA requested voluntary recall of less than half (46.4 per cent), and of that amount, only 334 recalls actually happened. And of that amount, only 334 recalls were associated with a public notice.

The illicit 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 within the supplement", the study warns. Further, products containing stimulants such as sibutramine can pose "a risk to patients with a history of heart disease or stroke".

"The agency's failure to aggressively use all available tools to remove pharmaceutically adulterated supplements from commerce leaves consumers" health at risk", Dr. Pieter Cohen, a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance in Somerville, Massachusetts, wrote in a commentary accompanying the study. It is highly recommended by the authors that anyone wanting to take a supplement talk with their physician first. The answer is many labels leave out one important ingredient: a hidden payload of pharmaceutical drugs and experimental chemicals. "Supplements are not vetted by the FDA, and do not require that any evidence of safety or efficacy is presented to the agency before they are sold to consumers".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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