Hundreds of Dietary Supplements Are Tainted with Prescription Drugs
Dietary supplements aren’t regulated like pharmaceutical drugs, so that means they shouldn’t contain pharmaceutical drugs. Yet over the last decade, more than 750 supplement brands have been found to be tainted with drugs—sometimes containing two or more hidden drug ingredients, a new study finds.
What’s more, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified these tainted supplements, less than half of these products were recalled.
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.
Now, medical experts are calling on the FDA to take more urgent action to remove these tainted supplements from the market.
“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. Cohen was not involved with the research. [Wishful Thinking: 6 ‘Magic Bullet’ Cures That Don’t Exist]
DRUGS IN SUPPLEMENTS
In the study, researchers analyzed data from an FDA database on dietary supplements tainted with pharmaceuticals that had been identified by the agency from 2007 to 2016.
During this period, 776 dietary supplements were found to contain drugs. Of these, most (86 percent) were marketed for sexual enhancement or weight loss, and 12 percent were marked for muscle building.
About 1 in 5 products (20 percent) were found to contain more than one hidden drug ingredient, the study found.
The most common drugs found in supplements were sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra) for sex supplements, sibutramine (a banned weight-loss drug) for weight-loss supplements, and synthetic steroids or steroid-like ingredients for muscle-building supplements, the researchers said.
Overall, fewer than half (46 percent) of the adulterated supplement brands were recalled.
Previous research by Cohen and colleagues has found that supplements continue to be sold in stores even after they are recalled.