Supplements Tainted with Rx Drugs

Most of us want to go with as natural supplements as possible. That desire can become a problem when you buy at a health food store or off the internet.

According to an article written by Rachael Rettner, senior writer with Live Science, the FDA has found hundreds of supplement brands that are trained with Rx Drugs and most were not recalled.  The dietary supplements are not regulated like the pharmaceutical drugs, therefore they should not contain any pharmaceutical drugs.  However, more than 750 brands have been found to be tainted with drugs and sometimes with two or more hidden drug ingredients.

The new study also indicated that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified these tainted supplements and less than 1/2 of these products were recalled.  So these products are basically unapproved drugs that remain on the market and have the potential to cause serious health problems, according to the California Department of Public Health, in a study published in the journal JAMA Network Open.  FDA is being called on to take more urgent action to remove the tainted supplements from the market.  Their failure to aggressively use all tools to remove the pharmaceutically adulterated supplements from commerce leaves all our health at risk, says Dr. Pieter Cohen, a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance in Somerville, Massachusetts who was not involved with the research.  Data was analyzed from an FDA database on dietary supplements tainted with pharmaceuticals that were already identified by the agency from 2007 to 2016.

They found 776 supplements to contain drugs and 86% of these were marketed for sexual enhancement or weight loss with 12% marked for muscle building.  One in five of the products were found to contain more than one hidden drug ingredient as sildenafil (for sex supplements), sibutramine (for weight loss) and synthetic steroids or steroid ingredients for muscle building supplements.  Fewer, however, than 1/2 or 46%, of the adulterated supplement brands were recalled.

The shocking part of the study findings is that over 1/2 of the supplement brands containing drugs were never even recalled in the first place.  If a company refuses to voluntarily recall its products, the FDA has many tools it can use to get the product off the market.  The feeling is that FDA is simply not doing its job, according to Cohen.

These drugs can interact with other medications or might be unsafe for those with certain health conditions, such as sibutramine can increase blood pressure or heart rate that could be risky for those with a history of stroke or heart disease.

An earlier study found dietary supplements are tied to 23,000 emergency room visits and 2,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year.  The FDA must dedicate appropriate resources to get the job done or Congress to change dietary supplement regulations so companies are required to register their products with the FDA before selling them.  There would then be a registration code to identify it and allow the FDA to know what supplements are being sold in the country.  The agency could then deactivate the code so consumers could not purchase it if it was found to be tainted.

We all need to speak with our doctor first before taking supplements and use single-ingredient supplements rather than those with mixtures of ingredients as well as to avoid supplements that promise health benefits like weight loss.

Dr Fredda Branyon