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Are drugs lurking in your dietary supplements?

October 4, 2010
  • By Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

About the Author

photo of Patrick J. Skerrett

Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

Pat Skerrett is the editor of STAT's First Opinion and host of the First Opinion podcast. He is the former editor of the Harvard Health blog and former Executive Editor of Harvard Health Publishing. Before that, he was editor of … See Full Bio
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Fred Evans
January 2, 2012

Let’s see. All supplements should be approved by the FDA since there are potential health risks from taking some of them. Would that mean that all supplements would need to be tested to demonstrate that they are effective and not harmful? If so, supplements would become as expensive as prescription drugs, and multi-vitamins would probably be banned as not efficacious and potentially harmful.

We will never achieve a risk free world. Spare me from those risk averse bureaucrats who want to make it so.

Ed Lange
December 4, 2011

Who’s winning – Supplements or the FDA? Seems to me the good guys are always going to be that step behind. Scams in the computer industry are a good example of never catching up with bad guys!
The Pensioner<

November 2, 2011

Best way is to get our ‘supplements’ directly from food.

Vegetables can be concentrated into juice form etc.

As for aphrodisiac’s there are many many food items that help to increase ones libido [URL removed by moderator]

Seems like there is much controversy with this subject, however, many scientific studies have been made to test the hypotheses; so we need to keep an open mind.

October 16, 2011

I am not surprised than many nutritional supplements contain “a compound similar to” a drug. In actuality most drugs contain a compound similar to a plant that is in your nutritional product. Why do people think it is the other way around?

There are shoddy practices in every industry. For every supplement on that list I could list hundreds of drugs that have killed people, or have caused side effects that impact quality of life. That’s regulation for ya :-))
October 11, 2011

I think spupplements are okay, bud u alway’s take care of what dose u take

October 7, 2011

Like Ron Lewis mentioned above six of the supplements mentioned above have to do with sexual health and no wonder because this subject is very close to our hurts. But when we talk about our sexual health the best thing that we can do is use only natural ways and foods. The first thing that we should do to have a better sex life is to eat the right foods, if we use food strategically we can loose wight,boost our sexual health and ignite our love life.
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thomas thomas
September 17, 2011

great blog its good to know that you give a warning for your readers about the bad effect of supplements in the body.
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E. Guimont
September 14, 2011

you don’t make a distinction from buying supplements from the retail market vs. multi-level marketing vs. professional lines of supplements. while what you are saying is horrifying to think; you need to consider the source from where your supplements come from.

September 1, 2011

Very nice site!

September 1, 2011

Hello! gedkddd interesting gedkddd site! I’m really like it! Very, very gedkddd good!

August 2, 2011

The government is aware of the misuse of some supplements. Like the use of drugs like heroin, the government benefits from their presense – hence the war in Afghanistan where popy production is up 80% under U.S. control – because the
illegal activity allows the government to write legislation to reduce constitutional rights of the citizens under the guise of making the population safe. There are more deaths from pharmaceuticals than herbs now and in the future. The government prevents people from becoming herbalists so that physicians can, without training, fulfill that role and make money.I have seen this personaly with acupuncture.

When products like ephedra where readily available at your local gas station, in my opinion it was to allow deaths to occur and then remove the product. This has happened
with many other supplements.

I have studied Chinese and western herbology and acupuncture, ephedra is for upper respiratory conditions like asthma, not weight loss. While the public may not know this the FDA certainly does.

Alternative medicine is a multibillion dollar industry which the pharmacetucial companies intend to take over. Restricting the acredidation of herbolists and allowing the misuse age of herbs is just one of their tactics to achieve that goal.

The pharmaceutical companies are deeply involved in the despensation of toxic “so called” medicines and try to appear as the good guys. Please read, Excitotoxins the Taste That Kills, by retired neurosurgeon, Dr. Richard Blaylock.

We need trained herbolists to avoid
the tragic events discribed above.

Dr. Samuel Dyer
July 31, 2011

Great article

July 29, 2011

There are so many high grade supplement sites out there it is ridiculous. How do we combat them when you can easily click and buy supplements that you need a physician’s license just to buy from the wholesale distributor?
There are neuroscience supplements and orthomolecular supplements that are super high grade sold at a bunch of other sites. When people are buying them, they don’t know proper dosage instructions. The fact that drugs are in some of these doesn’t surprise me.
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July 24, 2011

I agree about the FDA says that “products containing aromatase inhibitors have a reasonable probability of resulting in permanent impairment of a body structure or function in at risk consumers.”
Thank for share.
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April 18, 2011

My family has had the worst luck with taking both over the counter supplements and prescription drugs. My mother was taking a dietary supplement for weight loss that was supposed to be “safe & all natural”, it contained something similar to ephedra and she ended up in the hospital due to heart palpitations and chest pains. She stopped taking the “all natural” stimulant as per suggestion of her doctor and the hot flashes, chest pains, and heart palpitations stopped occurring. That same year, my Grandmother was taken off of the drug Vioxx after the recall. As if that was not enough, my Grandmother was prescribed Darvocet for pain relief due to a botched hip replacement (a completely different story of bad luck) and just recently stopped taking it when she found out that the FDA had pulled it from the market due to the Darvocet side effects, namely heart trouble. Finally, after being on several medications that were recalled due to dangerous side effects, she has decided to take action and is in the process of suing the drug manufacturer of Darvocet, Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals as part of a class action lawsuit. My question is: why don’t we get this information before the drugs (or dietary supplements) hurt or kill thousands of people? Are we destined to be human guinea pigs for the drug companies? These are the kind of thins that should be tested during, hello – the testing phase! And we can’t place all the blame on the manufacturer either, the doctors push new medications on patients like its going out of style! Anyway…enough of my rant. Thanks for the great post, I’m forwarding this to the rest of my family.

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April 15, 2011

I also heard about ephedra banned by the FDA. Just like the case of darvocet which the manufacturer now strongly face Darvocet Lawsuit. FDA banned this product when a young girl died after taking it.
Anyway, I like the thought that you laid down those supplements so we can have referrals too and we will be aware of its side effects.

April 1, 2011

Thanks for your vigilance in listing supplements found to contain unwanted pharmaceuticals or other added compounds.

Customers–read your labels! Also, look into some guarantee from your supplement supplier that they are using “third party lab testing” to verify purity of raw ingredients, and finished products.

Also, find a company that produces herbal products that use standardized extracts to ensure potency.

You get what you pay for when it comes to supplements–avoid cheap or “hyped” supplements unless you carefully read your labels first.

Thanks again.

February 27, 2011

how natural are these natural suplements, of course they have been processed, i always think that thesem pills always have some kind of side effects no matter how natural they are.

Robert White
October 21, 2011

Yes Sir, If we need anything restricted it would be the outrageous behavior of the pharmaceutical companies with their “take this for better joint function BUT you finger nails my fall off”
More visibility for alternative medicine is what we need.,The newest that I think will soon be at the top of the list is the new multi vitamin with added stem cell nutrition. You may want to take a look if you haven’t heard of it yet.
I LOVE IT Thank-You…Robert White

CR Hays
January 14, 2011

think that any medication, incluting herbal supplements, have their place.
Great post, thanks

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Alpha Crew
January 14, 2011

Interesting article, but any informed athelete would be aware of what they are putting in there body, its all on the label. the only synthetic compounds listed there, are the ones in products that are sold as “ProHormone/Designer Steroids”
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December 14, 2010

I remember about a year ago that a company put a type II drug in a diet pill. the diet pills were a hit but I mean when you are taking stuff that helps you FOCUS and you NEVER get tired why wouldn’t you like it?

Ron Lewis
November 9, 2010

If you want a purely natural supplement, read the label and investigate any ingredient you don’t recognize to determine what it really is. Six of the supplements mentioned above have to do with sexual health (ED,lack of sexual desire, low testosterone,etc.)– conditions for which herbs have been safely and effectively used for centuries — without drugs or negative side effects.

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Jo Chris
October 10, 2010

That is why it is best to follow a natural muscle building plan. Unfortunately, not everybody understands the consequences of taking manufactured supplements or are willing to overlook the harm that can come from them.

Clint Blumer
October 5, 2010


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