A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that although more than two dozen dietary supplements were recalled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approximately two-thirds were back on the market a year later, with the same banned pharmaceutical ingredients.
The study, published in the October 2014 issue of JAMA, stated that the supplements, most marketed for weight loss, exercise and sexual enhancement, contain anabolic steroids or powerful prescription drugs like Sibutramine, an amphetamine-like drug that was removed from the market after it was shown to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Other illicit ingredients contained in the supplements include drugs like Viagra and Prozac, an antidepressant, as well as sildenafil, fluoxetine, phenolphthalein, aromatase inhibitor, and various anabolic steroids.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty?
Unlike prescription drugs, dietary supplements are considered safe until proven otherwise, and generally only pulled from shelves after complaints of serious injury. In recent years, research has shown that herbal supplements like Echinacea, Ginkgo biloba and St. John’s wort are often mislabeled or diluted with fillers like powdered rice. In 2013, a study found that the number of liver-related injuries linked to bodybuilding and weight loss supplements is rising and now account for almost 20 percent of the drug-related liver injuries reported by hospitals.
Supplements Remain Popular in U.S.
Americans spend approximately $32 billion on dietary supplements each year, despite unproven claims of weight loss, muscle building, and immunity system strengthening. The supplement business is largely unregulated due to a federal law enacted in 1994 that prevents the FDA from approving or even evaluating most supplements before they are sold. The FDA estimates that 70 percent of dietary supplement companies are not following basic quality control standards to help prevent contamination of their products. Of about 55,000 supplements that are sold in the United States, only 170 or about 0.3 percent have been studied closely enough to determine their common side effects, according to a report in the New York Times.