FDA Warns of Fraudulent "Dietary Supplements"

It’s easy enough to become injured by approved dietary supplements, over-the-counter or prescription medications, but the risk increases exponentially if the product in question is fraudulent. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that there are many products marketed as “dietary supplements” that are potentially dangerous.

The FDA has discovered nearly 300 fraudulent products—promoted mainly for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding—that contain hidden or deceptively labeled ingredients.

“These products are masquerading as dietary supplements—they may look like dietary supplements but they are not legal dietary supplements,” says Michael Levy, director of FDA’s Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance. “Some of these products contain hidden prescription ingredients at levels much higher than those found in an approved drug product and are dangerous.”

How to Spot Suspect Products

The FDA advises consumers to look for some potential warning signs of tainted products, including:

  • products claiming to be alternatives to FDA-approved drugs or to have effects similar to prescription drugs
  • products claiming to be a legal alternative to anabolic steroids
  • products that are marketed primarily in a foreign language or those that are marketed through mass e-mails
  • sexual enhancement products promising rapid effects, such as working in minutes to hours, or long-lasting effects, such as working for 24 to 72 hours
  • product labels warning that you may test positive in performance enhancement drug tests

The agency also suggests that if you are taking—or considering taking—any product marketed as a dietary supplement, talk with your healthcare provider first. There is no such thing as a totally safe supplement, and if the claims of the product you’re considering seem too good to be true, they probably are!

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