Greensboro's African American Community Newspaper since 1967

As the use of supplements grows so does the concern


Many supplements appear to contain pharmaceutical ingredients not listed on the label. In the muscle building supplements 89.1 percent of the tainted products there had anabolic steroid or steroid like substances in them.

We last took a look at dietary supplements in October of 2015. At that time we marveled at how much money, over 30 billion dollars, was being spent on supplements. Well guess what? I should have invested some money in that field because it continues to grow larger and larger.

Our concern back in 2015 was due to the fact that many of the supplements that were touted as being natural were being laced with known medications to make them more effective. The problem back then and now is that some of those known medications could be contraindicated to people depending on their health history.

The FDA has been investigating these supplements and recently produced a report that sheds light on some of the problems in this lucrative industry. In the FDA report, more than 700 over-the-counter supplements (between 2007 and 2016) were found to have chemicals in them that were not mentioned on their labels. The FDA called these chemicals in supplements “undeclared or unauthorized pharmaceuticals.”

In a work published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), researchers from The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) examined the FDA’s “tainted list” and came up with some very interesting data.

CDPH found that supplements with most violations were in the male sexual enhancement category. Approximately 45.5 percent of those products were found to contain unauthorized or undeclared pharmaceuticals. Not far behind were weight loss products with 40.9 percent containing tainted products. Bringing up the rear were muscle building products with 11.9 percent consisting of the tainted products.

Most of these products had only one adulterated ingredient but a few others contained multiple adulterated ingredients.

So why is this so important? In the sexual enhancement group, 81.3 percent of the tainted supplements contained Viagra and 21.4 percent of the tainted group had Cialis. These prescribed medications are not great for all men and could cause harm. As physicians, we worry about heart attacks and strokes.

Approximately 84.9 percent of the tainted weight loss supplements contained Sibutramine. This substance was removed from the U.S. market in 2010 due to increasing consumers’ cardiovascular risk. In addition, 5.4 percent of the tainted weight loss preparations contained an antidepressant.

As for muscle building supplements, 89.1 percent of the tainted products contained an anabolic steroid or steroid-like substances in them.

So what was the response of the FDA to these problems? The FDA asked manufacturers of these supplements to “voluntarily recall” 360 of the 770 tainted products. Public notice was provided in 342 of these cases. One may wonder why the FDA has had such an anemic response to this problem. One reason is their ability to ask for only a “voluntary recall”. Companies do not have to comply with this request. It may be time for the U.S. Department of Justice to follow-up with a more robust legal action, which may not be as easy as it sounds in today’s political environment.

The public is not safe with these tainted products on the market and the fact that this field is growing gives me great concern. Hey FDA, let the public know about these products or file an injunction to halt their distribution to the public.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Email Dr. Bland at