supplements that have been recalled as the result of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans on the drugs they contain, often continue to be sold, sometimes for years after the recall, according to doctors at Harvard Medical School. More than 400 supplement brands containing banned pharmaceutical drugs have been identified by the FDA and recalls have been issued for 70 percent of them, according to Reuters.
The Harvard Medical School study looked at 27 supplements for sports enhancement, weight loss and sexual enhancement that were recalled between 2009 and 2012. The supplements were purchased from the manufacturers' websites at least eight months and up to four years after they were recalled.
The researchers found 18 of the 27 supplements still contained the banned pharmaceutical ingredient that got the drug recalled in the first place. Two-thirds of the supplements looked at in the study were manufactured in the United States, the article notes.
“There’s no question that these supplements that contain pharmaceuticals are not allowed to be sold, there are clear-cut laws,” lead author Dr. Pieter A. Cohen told Reuters.
A supplement containing the weight loss drug sibutramine has been linked to heart attack and stroke. Another contained the laxative phenolphthalein which has been tied to cancer.
"Dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors are legally responsible for marketing a safe product that is not adulterated, and that complies with FDA’s good manufacturing practice regulations for dietary supplements," the FDA told Reuters.
However, the FDA warns, "The supply chain for these products is extremely fragmented; one product manufactured by an unknown company overseas may be sold by dozens of different distributors in the United States. The individuals and businesses selling these products generally are difficult to locate, operate out of residential homes, and distribute via internet, small stores, and mail. Products are shipped through the international mail facilities and are often misdeclared as unrelated goods to avoid detection. Even after recall and enforcement action against one major distributor, the product may continue to be widely sold."
The findings appear in JAMA.