America’s supplement problems stain a mushrooming industry in which consumers may find it difficult to determine fact from fiction. Fraudulent products are often offered to prevent, treat, or cure conditions such as arthritis, cancer, erectile dysfunction, or obesity. According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) “these dangerous scams often target the most vulnerable populations.” 1
“FDA has found that many of these tainted products are mislabeled, and in some instances, contain active ingredients that shouldn’t be available without health care provider oversight,” said Jonca Bull, M.D., FDA’s Assistant Commissioner, Office of Minority Health.
Not just confined to dietary supplements, “Health fraud scams are a multimillion dollar industry involving the marketing of drugs, medical devices, biologics and cosmetics,” writes Dr. Bull. “Bogus products can cause serious or fatal injuries and can harm consumers further by delaying the proper diagnosis and treatment of health conditions,” she said in an online article, FDA Unveils Multilingual Health Fraud Protection Initiative for Consumers, March 10, 2016.1
The FDA fights against supplement problems with its own enhanced educational initiative and urges the public, health professionals and community leaders to help. In March 2016, coinciding with National Consumer Protection Week, FDA launched online articles and videos to alert consumers of the dangers of imported tainted products falsely marketed as dietary supplements. The materials provide tips on how to prevent health fraud scams and detect supplement hype. They’re translated into English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.1
The new FDA initiative introduced two new websites on how to prevent fraud and for tips and advice on scams related to supplement problems:
1. Some Imported Dietary Supplements May Harm You, and
Many supplement problems are found in tainted products that claim to help people with a specific medical condition, like arthritis or obesity. Other supplements are geared towards the specific desires of people, like sexual enhancement and body building. Fewer supplement problems are found with general health nutritional vitamins and minerals.
The dietary supplement industry has recently been under fire for industry failures by manufacturers to adhere to many elements of the regulations regarding testing, safety and purity. Two-thirds of supplement companies inspected by the FDA failed to pass the most elementary of the industry’s current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) safety guidelines from 2010 through 2016. 2,3 Transgressions such as these force FDA to generate non-compliance Form 583 letters, warning letters, or enforce product recalls..
Sellers of tainted products are mostly from the United States but often sell products that originate overseas and target certain ethnic groups, according to Dr. Bull. Some supplements are labeled in
languages other than English. The FDA cautions problem supplements may be sold at flea markets, swap meets, ethnic stores, or from the homes of individuals.1
The sellers recruit friends, family members and co-workers to market products through word of mouth. They advertise on TV and radio, in magazines and newspapers, through direct mail and social media channels such as Facebook Twitter, and Instagram and through e-commerce platforms
The FDA warns that some scammers encourage their clients to stop using their prescribed medications and replace them with their products without consulting their physicians first.
Some unscrupulous marketers prey on underserved populations and people with limited English proficiency who are prone to fall victim to health fraud scams. This vulnerable population has language barriers, cultural beliefs, low health literacy and limited or inadequate access to health care services, according to an FDA web page.1
The FDA warns that “Natural” does not mean “Safe”. It also doesn’t mean a product is free of hidden drug ingredients. For example, a dietary supplement for arthritis joint pain can be illegally “spiked” with hidden pharmaceuticals. It may also be contaminated, contain potentially harmful chemicals, or direct unsafe dosages.4
A Mexican dietary supplement, Reumofan has gained a loyal following in the U.S. as a “100% natural” treatment for arthritis and joint pain. Its label shows ingredients such as shark cartilage, white willow and glucosamine. However, lab tests by U.S. and Mexican health authorities have detected up to three powerful and potentially dangerous prescription drugs hidden in Reumofan.
Consumers who buy Reumofan products are risking dangerous side effects and trusting their lives to a fake company, according to a USA Today investigative report Maker of dangerous pain pills is ‘ghost’ that can’t be found by Alison Young Sept 27, 2013. 5
Dozens of Reumofan users have suffered serious and life-threatening health effects after taking the pills, including liver injury, strokes, severe episodes of bleeding, and three reports of death according to federal records obtained by USA Today under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The company is a mystery. FDA, in cooperation with Mexican officials, were unable to find the manufacturer.5
Supplement problems with products marketed as arthritis and joint pain relievers have been recalled for containing illegal drugs. One of these was Super Arthgold. A 2014 FDA analysis discovered it contained pharmaceuticals chlorzoxazone, diclofenac, and indomethacin, which converted a dietary supplement into an “unapproved new drug”. FDA warned the public Super Arthgold could be deadly for some people with underlying illnesses, as well as people who had recently undergone cardiac bypass graft surgery.6
The cGMP rules do not require supplement makers to prove their products are safe, or even effective, before putting them on store shelves. In effect, supplement owners are on the honor system. On the other hand, the FDA requires that prescription drugs be thoroughly tested in humans, contain the ingredients listed, and have evidence to back marketing claims.
Supplements are supposed to be accurately labeled in accordance with the regulations. But, a review of government databases, court documents and scientific studies uncovered more than 850 products that contained illegal and/or hidden ingredients. This included banned drugs, pharmaceuticals like antidepressants and other synthetic chemicals that have never been tested on humans. 6
These details of supplement problems appeared in an investigative article, Unregulated—The hidden drugs in your favorite supplements by Julia Belluz and Soo Oh, January 6, 2010 on Vox.com.
“Supplements spiked with dangerous drugs are found in hundreds of stores across America, even in the largest supplement retail chains,” the article quoted Pieter Cohen, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, an expert on the supplement industry. “Until the law is reformed, tens of thousands of Americans will continue to be harmed by supplements every year,” he said.6
There’s no honor in the following story of an arthritis product not spiked with illegal drugs, but whose owner went to great lengths in making false claims about the company’s products, one of which was BioTherapex. Advertising brochures for the product featured fictitious medical doctors and a fictitious clinical study. The dietary supplement was promoted to treat arthritis, relieve aching joint and back pain, and cause significant weight loss. It sold for $39.95 per bottle.7,8
On November 30, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which cooperates with the FDA regarding advertising claims of marketers, announced Health Research Laboratories LLC and owner, Kramer Duhon, of Maine, agreed to settle charges.
BioTherapex, was sold in the U.S. and Canada through direct mail marketing campaigns. In its complaint, the FTC charged that the claims for BioTherapex were false and/or unsubstantiated. Additionally, the company designed brochures to resemble scientific journals, featuring fictitious testimonials and doctor endorsements. A brochure for BioTherapex touted "results" of 1,200-person clinical study on the product that was never actually conducted.
The FTC judgment allows the defendant to clean up his act and stay in business. It also hits the company with a $3.7-million-dollar fee (limited, upon payment, to $800,000).7,8
Supplement problems abound in this industry. It’s even more important that you choose products from the right company. To trust the label and the contents, you must know the company. It’s not easy to find a supplement company with which you can literally trust your life.Supplement problems exist to a large extent because companies do not test their raw ingredients, nor their batches and finished product. Many purchase cheap ingredients from countries like China. Can you trust that they’re not contaminated? You cannot automatically trust products on the shelves of Costco, Walmart, GNC and other retailers. You cannot automatically trust products sold over the internet.
Supplement problems exist because the industry does not require the manufacturer to prove safety and efficacy. With that knowledge, it’s a no-brainer that companies take shortcuts to reduce costs and increase profitability.
And that’s why we developed 30 questions to find the best dietary supplement company—one that voluntarily proves safety and efficacy of its products through conclusive tests and clinical studies.
Supplement problems are not an issue with this science-based firm. They are remarkably different from other supplement producers. They operate more like a pharmaceutical company. They are 'beyond organic'. Their products, and the quality and science behind them, are unmatched in the industry. Are they more expensive? Yes, a little. You get what you pay for.
Producing quality does not come cheap. Do you honestly think unsafe, untested, inexpensive supplements can safely produce desired results in your body? What kind of quality is built into your supplements?
Here are 10 reasons why we recommend the #1 natural nutrition company in the U.S. to eliminate supplement problems. 9
10. They have developed “green” cleaning products and reaped a list of awards and accomplishments in environmental leadership and responsibility, including the first company awarded Climate Neutral status in the U.S..9
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In addition to the landmark study, a second major study of telomeres proves longevity benefits of Shaklee users long term. An 80-year-old Shaklee supplement user is projected to have the same telomere length as a 41-year-old non-supplement user, based on a preliminary clinical study. “The Shaklee population was only one-third as likely to have telomeres in the bottom quartile based on other studies that examined short telomeres and their relationship to a long healthy life,” 2009 Nobel Prize winner Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn said.
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