According to Consumer Reports, supplement manufacturers sell their products without first having to demonstrate that they are safe and effective. Consumer Reports has been working with experts from the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, an independent research group, and have identified a dozen supplement ingredients that it thinks consumers should avoid because they’ve been linked by clinical research or case reports to serious adverse events. Other factors were also evaluated, including evidence of effectiveness for their purported uses, and the extent to which the ingredients are readily available, either alone or in combination products.
What does all of this mean? It means, despite Americans spending billions of dollars annually on supplements, ingredients in supplements can be hazardous, even when they tout being natural. Consumer Reports also noted that the FDA has repeatedly found synthetic prescription drugs in supplements claiming to contain natural ingredients. Some supplements even claim they can cure cancer or replace prescription medication, even though it is against the law for companies to claim that any supplement can prevent, treat, or cure any disease except some nutrient-deficient conditions. Here at the Brod Law Firm, we believe the FDA needs to use the same strict standards to regulate supplements as it uses for drugs. Lack of oversight leaves unsuspecting consumers vulnerable.
Consumer Reports recommends consumers follow steps listed below before buying or taking supplements.
1. Beware of certain categories. Supplements for weight loss, sexual enhancement and bodybuilding have been problematic, according to the FDA, because some contain steroids and prescription drugs.
2. Look for the “USP Verified” mark. It indicates that the supplement manufacturer has voluntarily asked U.S. Pharmacopia, a trusted nonprofit, standards-setting authority, to verify the quality, purity, and potency of its raw ingredients or finished products. USP maintains a list of verified products at http://www.uspverfied.org.
3. Don’t assume more is better. It is possible to overdose even on beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Report problems. Let your doctor know if you experience any symptoms after you start taking a supplement. And if you end up with a serious side effect, ask your doctor or pharmacist to report it to the FDA, or do it yourself at http://www.fda.gov/medwatch or by calling 800-332-1088.
5. Research the right places. Be skeptical about claims made for supplements n ads, on TV and by sals staff. If a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Instead try these sources:
The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements.
The FDA, for alerts, advisories, and other actions.
Consumer Reports Health’s dietary supplements and natural health products information.