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FDA-Banned Drugs Found in Supplements Sold to Consumers

Regulations come under fire, as FDA admits there is a 'challenge' to enforcement.

A significant number of supplements, especially in the weight-loss and bodybuilding categories, tested positive for drugs previously banned by the FDA, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  

Six months after the supplements were recalled, 66 percent of those still available to consumers had the banned ingredients in them, according to the study.

Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the study, told USA Today that the regulations of these supplements do not provide the end user with the assurance that they are living up to their claims or that they don't contain potentially harmful drugs.

The study gives more weight to claims by some that the FDA needs to do more to regulate these types of supplements, while some of those in the supplement industry say the study paints a tainted picture.

Steve Mister, president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, and Daniel Fabricant, executive director of the Natural Products Association, both pointed out to USA Today that those conducting the survey were only able to purchase 27 of the recalled supplements, and of them, the tests didn’t find any of the suspicious ingredients in nine of them, which means they were reformulated, according to the paper’s article published Tuesday. 

USA Today has been following the supplement and natural products industry in a special series of ongoing stories titled, "Supplement Shell Game." 

Fabricant, who was the top regulator for supplements for the FDA until this year, told the media outlet that stronger enforcement is needed, but that many times it is not easy to build a felony case against companies who are doing this.

"I don't think the issue is with the law, I think it's with the willpower to bring these cases," he told them.

For their part, the FDA told USA Today in a statement that it, “faces the challenge of providing effective deterrents to prevent unscrupulous firms from fraudulently marketing and importing these products.”




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