How To Avoid Tainted & Harmful Supplements

Millions of people take dietary supplements, but do we really know what is lurking in them? The Doctors’ exclusive investigation inside the FDA discovers some alarming news.

Over 70 percent of Americans take supplements and the industry generates a whopping 35 billion dollars annually and the FDA says there are a shocking amount of unknown ingredients being consumed.

Dan Solis, FDA Director of Import Operations Los Angeles, says many supplements coming into the country from overseas are tainted and counterfeit. The most common types include erectile dysfunction drugs, weight loss drugs, and supplements claiming to be pain relievers. He also notes that many supplements which claim to herbal are actually drugs because they have active pharmaceutical ingredients. The FDA often finds counterfeit versions of popular drugs like Viagra, Cialis, Lexapro, Zoloft and Propecia coming into the country illegally on a regular basis. When the FDA finds counterfeit drugs and tainted supplements they are taken to a classified incinerator site and destroyed.

Watch: Supplement Safety Tips

George Karavetsos, FDA Director of the office of Criminal Investigations, joins The Doctors to discuss the problems with some supplements and shares how to keep yourself and your family safe.

He warns against a supplement making lofty claims, for example extreme weight loss or the curing of cancer or another serious disease. He also recommends that consumers speak with their health care professionals before they start a supplement.

“It’s about awareness. We have over 50,000 supplements on the market in the United States, and consumers just don’t know what they are getting,” he says, explaining that part of the issue is the FDA must be reactive and not proactive when investigating supplements. “The FDA does not have the authority. Unlike prescription drugs, they are not screened pre-market. So we can only take action only after they have hit the market.”

Watch: Exclusive: FDA Supplement Truth

On the FDA’s website they recommend these tips when deciding on a supplement:

  • When researching supplements online use noncommercial sites (e.g. NIH, FDA, USDA) rather than simply blind searching the product on Google

  • Be aware of statements like “works better than [a prescription drug],” “totally safe,” or has “no side effects”

  • The term natural doesn’t always mean it is safe

The FDA Director adds, “There certainly is an incredibly legitimate dietary supplement market… we are focused on the worst of the worst, the modern day snake oil salesmen that are going and targeting the most vulnerable in our society. They are preying upon people who have little hope.”

Watch: Hidden Drugs in Your Supplements?

For more information from the FDA on dietary supplement safety visit their website.