Nearly 800 Dietary Supplements Contained Unapproved Drug Ingredients, Study Finds

Hundreds of sex and diet pills tainted with unapproved drugs study shows

Calling this an "important public health concern", the researchers said that almost 68% of these supplements had new unapproved ingredients that were reported in the second or third warning by the FDA, "consistent with the assumption that the FDA found the product to be adulterated a couple of times". The most common hidden drug ingredient in sexual enhancement supplements is sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, while the most common additive in weight loss supplements is banned weight-loss drug sibutramine, and synthetic steroid drugs for the muscle building supplements.

"The drug ingredients have the potential to cause serious adverse health effects due to misuse, overuse, or interaction with other medications, underlying health conditions, or other pharmaceuticals within the supplement", Corey Egel with the California Department of Public Health told IFLScience.

Cohen, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, believes that "more than FDA action will be required to ensure that all adulterated supplements are effectively and swiftly removed from the market". He cited a 2014 study that he and others conducted that found 20 of 27 supplements were still adulterated with drugs and available for purchase between eight and 52 months after they were recalled by the FDA.

Dr. Pieter A. Cohen of Cambridge Health Alliance in MA said that although the FDA discovered 746 adulterated supplements, it announced voluntary recalls for fewer than half of these products. Cohen was not involved with the research. "The current study demonstrates that there are hundreds of brands of adulterated supplements that have not been recalled, but the FDA has only once used their mandatory recall authority to recall an adulterated supplement", he said. [Wishful Thinking: 6 "Magic Bullet" Cures That Don't Exist] Drugs in supplementsIn 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.

It should be noted that the findings are limited to drugs for which the FDA tested, a number and variety that is not disclosed in the study. Or the FDA may have contacted these companies, but they refused to voluntarily recall their products. According to data, the FDA sent warnings to the companies, with 28 products being named twice or thrice as adulterated products. A 2015 study found that dietary supplements are tied to 23,000 emergency room visits and 2,000 hospitalizations in the US each year.

Federal law does not require dietary supplements to be proven safe to FDA's satisfaction before they are marketed.

Fluoxetine, a prescription antidepressant from the same class of drugs as dapoxetine, which has been been associated with suicidal thinking, abnormal bleeding and seizures, was found in 17 of 317 weight-loss products.

Though the database contains five pages worth of warnings, the FDA urges on the site that this is "only a small fraction of the potentially hazardous products with hidden ingredients" and consumers should "exercise caution before using certain products".

Dr Cohen says that the FDA could claim that it's short-staffed, but 'the [testing] work is being done, it's just not being followed up'. Sibutramine for weight loss was also identified, even though it has the potential to increase blood pressure or pulse rate, especially in those with a history of heart disease or stroke. 'The FDA has to dedicate appropriate resources to getting the job done, ' Cohen said. It remains unclear how effective these supplements, such as Vitamin D, the subject of a recent study, are to an individual's long-term health.

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