5 Tips to Avoid Adulterated Products Marketed as Dietary Supplements

Some dietary supplements are marketed as an “alternative” – often a “natural” one – to improve overall health, including alleviating symptoms that would be better treated by a physician with appropriate medical care, including pharmaceuticals.

“Miracle cures” and “magic bullets” have been so appealing to consumers that they are willing to spend a lot of money on products that promise immediate health improvement without much effort on their part.

The growing trend in  dietary supplements intentionally adulterated with pharmaceuticals represents an alarming risk to public health. These products can be bought in stores and overwhelmingly via the Internet.

The FDA has alerted consumers about more than 180 cases of adulterated products containing pharmaceuticals that may be harmful to consumers Categories of illegal products marketed as dietary supplements that tend to be the most frequently adulterated involve sexual enhancement, weight loss and bodybuilding supplements.

Here are five quick tips to avoid adulterated products marketed as dietary supplements:

  1. Look for the USP Verified” mark on the label of the dietary supplements that you are buying. USP tests dietary supplements ingredients and products from manufacturers to verify the quality of their products. The “USP Verified” mark means that what you see on the label is what is inside the bottle.

  2. Talk to your health care provider about the dietary supplements that you consume. Some dietary supplements may adversely interfere or interact with your prescription medicines leading to undesired effects, especially if they are adulterated with unknown pharmaceutical substances.

  3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many adulterated products sold as dietary supplements that promise to cure diseases may contain drugs that are, at best, prescription medicines. But they could also be pharmaceuticals that have been discontinued or withdrawn due to unsatisfactory safety records, for example, or their untested analogs, which have not been approved by the FDA. Purported dietary supplements may even be adulterated with multiple pharmaceuticals, in dangerous combinations and in excessive dosages.

  4. Beware of products that claim they are an alternative to prescription drugs and anabolic steroids. Also think twice before buying products that promise rapid and long lasting health effects.

  5. Visit FDA’s Consumer Updates page on dietary supplements for recent recalls, warnings and explanations. Also be aware that adulterators try to be one step ahead of the people trying to catch them. By the time some of these adulterated products are tested and recalled, the adulterator has changed the product formula or substituted another product  in its place.

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