Health Care

Hundreds of dietary supplements contain potentially harmful' ingredients, study finds

Hundreds of dietary supplements contain potentially harmful' ingredients, study finds”

A new analysis of 10 years of FDA records reveals that from 2007 to 2016, nearly 750 dietary supplements were found to be contaminated with secret doses of totally unregulated drugs, including prescription medicines, banned and unapproved chemicals, and designer steroids.

Numerous weightloss products, meanwhile, contained appetite suppressant sibutramine, which has been withdrawn from sale across the globe after studies linked the drug with increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Researchers from the California Department of Public Health based their findings on an analysis of a Food and Drug Administration database that identifies "tainted" supplements.

As such, experts are now urging the FDA to take urgent action to have these products removed from the market.

The researchers say the adulterants have the potential to cause adverse health effects "owing to accidental misuse, overuse, or interaction with other medications, underlying health conditions, or other pharmaceuticals within the supplement".

Cohen is the author an editorial that accompanies the new analysis, which was published online October 12 in JAMA Network Open.

Between 2007 and 2016 the FDA issued warnings about 776 supplements that were adulterated with unapproved drugs. One of the substances found in the supplements was dapoxetine, an antidepressant that is not approved in the United States. In an accompanying editorial, Pieter A. Cohen, MD, noted that weight loss, sexual enhancement and muscle gain supplements are responsible for a disproportionate number of those visits. Out of the products tested, 776 of them contained hidden active ingredients that are unstudied or considered unsafe. "The most common adulterants were sildenafil for sexual enhancement supplements (166 of 353 [47.0%]), sibutramine for weight loss supplements (269 of 317 [84.9%]), and synthetic steroids or steroid-like ingredients for muscle building supplements (82 of 92 [89.1%])", the article reported. Out of 750 stated dietary supplements have been recalled around 48%. The challenge lies in the fact that even after a recall, other distributors may continue to sell the adulterated or misbranded product. Mostly, women who want to lose weight, quite often come across "on the hook" to enterprising sellers of dietary Supplements and later become victims of serious health problems.

"There's just no way to interpret this other than the FDA is simply not doing its job", Cohen said. "How could it be that our premier public health agency spends the time and money to detect these hidden ingredients and then doesn't take the next obvious step, which is to ensure that they are removed from the marketplace?" For example, sibutramine can increase blood pressure or heart rate, which could be risky for people with a history of stroke or heart disease.

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 US annually.

Why? Because as this research shows, many supplements turn out to be medicine after all - only it's an unknown drug, potentially a banned one, and there's no way of measuring your dose. If the company refuses to recall the product, the agency should follow up with aggressive actions to make sure the product is not available to consumers.

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