Herbal Weight Loss Supplements Often Contain Prescription Drug Ingredients

For some time now, we’ve been covering the issue of tainted supplements. Largely unregulated, dangerous supplements often make it to consumers’ homes containing undeclared ingredients.

A recent study revealed that many <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">herbal weight loss supplements contain what My Health News Daily described as pharmaceutical agents—laboratory manufactured drugs. Not only dangerous, many of these undeclared ingredients are illegal.

Reviewing 66 patient records for people who required hospital treatment for poisoning and the 81 weight loss products those people had taken, the team discovered two or more pharmaceutical agents in the supplements tested, said My Health News Daily. Of note, one patient died and two supplements contained six drugs.

“A wide variety of illicit, weight-reducing agents has been found in proprietary slimming products that are readily available to the public. Importantly, ingestion of these products may result in significant toxicities and even mortality,” said the researchers at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong, quoted My Health News Daily. The emerging study appears in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

“This is exactly the same issue that we’re faced with here,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen, a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, quoted My Health News Daily. Cohen noted that because of how researchers in Hong Kong monitor drug procedures, they are “often on the vanguard of identifying problems,” reported My Health News Daily.

About $34 billion is spent annually on alternative medicine, such as supplements, in the United States, said My Health News Daily. Products can be labeled as botanical supplements or herbal remedies, and can be dangerous and are rarely studied, according to prior research published in Chemical & Engineering News.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made three announcements in 2008 and 2009 concerning 72 weight loss supplements found to contain undeclared drugs including sibutramine, a weight loss drug known by its brand name Meridia, which was just voluntarily withdrawn, and fluoxetine, the antidepressant known by its brand name Prozac, said Health News Daily. Sibutramine, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, was the most common ingredient found in the supplements—59 in all—studied in the Hong Kong research.

The study also turned up banned medications including fenfluramine. “Fenfluramine is the bad actor of the Fen-phen diet pill,” said Cohen, quoted My Health News Daily. Fen-Phen was banned in 1997 in the US over links to heart attacks, noted Health News Daily. Phenolphthalein, a laxative that was banned over cancer links, was also found.

Cohen said he was most concerned with analogs, which are lab modified drug molecules. “This hasn’t even been studied in mice,” said Cohen. “This is really using the consumer… as guinea pigs,” he added, quoted Health News Daily.

Consumer Reports just published a report pointing to the FDA’s lack of jurisdiction regulating supplements and how it doesn’t take the steps it can, noted Reuters previously. Worse, not one supplement factory in China has ever been inspected by the FDA despite that it set up field offices there in 2008, said Consumer Reports, which is also concerned with the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), an industry friendly regulation that does not enable the FDA to regulate supplements as prescription medications, said Reuters.

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