Nearly 800 Dietary Supplements Tainted With Unapproved Ingredients Such As Viagra And Steroids

Researchers found that nearly 800 dietary supplements being consumed by Americans are actually tainted with one or more drugs.

Experts are calling on the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to take urgent action to remove the affected products from the market.

Adulterated Dietary Supplements

Over half of American adults take dietary supplements every day, from vitamins and minerals to amino acids and botanicals. Such products are not intended to prevent or treat diseases, but is a $35 billion industry. Unlike drugs, which are regulated by the FDA, the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act classifies dietary supplements as food and are therefore not required to be subjected to the same testing by the agency.

In an analysis of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, researchers of a new study published in JAMA Network Open found that nearly 800 dietary supplements were found to be adulterated with unapproved drugs. Specifically, from 2007 to 2016, there were 776 dietary supplements identified to contain one or more hidden drug ingredients, implicating 146 dietary supplement companies.

Viagra, Banned Weight Loss Drug, And Synthetic Steroids

Most of the adulterated dietary supplements were marketed for sexual enhancement, weight loss, and muscle building. 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.

Unfortunately, less than half of the adulterated products were eventually recalled, and some remain in the market even to this day. According to data, the FDA sent warnings to the companies, with 28 products being named twice or thrice as adulterated products. However, despite the agency’s warnings, in 19 of the 28 cases, the products even contained new unapproved ingredients by the second or third warning instead of having the original unapproved ingredient removed.

Urgent Action

One previous study associated dietary supplements with 23,000 emergency department visits and 2,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States. Further, poison control centers evidently received over 1,000 reports of adverse reactions to dietary supplements over a span of three years.

As such, experts are now urging the FDA to take urgent action to have these products removed from the market. Such products pose serious health risks, especially to users who are unaware that the supplements they are taking are actually adulterated with drugs. For instance, sibutramine may increase blood pressure and heart rate, so it could be particularly risky for a person with a history of stroke.

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