Hundreds of food supplements sold over the counter in the US contain unauthorized and potentially dangerous drugs, a new study found.
Researchers from the California Department of Public Health found 776 products as dietary supplements contained hidden ingredients that were insecure or uninvestigated between 2007 and 2016.
Among them were dapoxetine, an antidepressant that is not approved in the US, and sibutramine, an appetite suppressant that was banned from the US market in 2010 for cardiovascular risks. Despite these findings, more than half of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) cases did not force recalls of supplements that knowingly contained potentially hazardous ingredients.
The team based its research on an analysis of an FDA database of "spoiled" supplements; This means that the product contains ingredients that are not listed on the label.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open, found that more than one unauthorized pharmaceutical ingredient was found in 25 percent of these supplements
about 45 percent, were used for sexual enhancement, weight loss (41 percent), and muscle building (12 Percent).
Among the drugs found in sexual enhancement products, sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil were all active ingredients in prescription medications used to treat erectile dysfunction that can cause severe damage to blood vessels when used too much.
Similarly, sibutramine was the most common pharmaceutical ingredient that was detected in weight loss products in 2010 due to cardiovascular risks.
Almost all muscle-building supplements, 82 out of 92 products, contained synthetic steroids or steroid-like ingredients that were used in abuse, which can lead to mental health problems, kidney and heart problems, and liver damage.
"These products can cause serious adverse health effects due to accidental abuse, overuse, or interference with other medicines, underlying health conditions, or other medications within the same nutritional supplement," write the authors, led by Madhur Kumar of the California Department of Public Health, food and drug industry.
"As the nutritional supplement industry continues to grow in the United States, it is imperative that this important public health issue be further addressed."
What has the FDA done with these supplements?
According to the study very little. Of the 776 nutritional supplements identified with hidden ingredients, the FDA requested a voluntary recall of less than half (46.4 percent), and in fact, only 334 recalls occurred.
"The agency does not use all available means aggressively tools to remove pharmaceutically adulterated supplements from the trade, burdening the health of consumers," wrote Dr. Pieter Cohen, general practitioner of the Cambridge Health Alliance in Somerville, Massachusetts, in a commentary accompanying the study.
In light of the findings The authors strongly recommend that anyone who wants to take a supplement first contact their doctor.