The Food and Drug Administration frequently recalls dietary supplements that are found to contain banned substances. But a new study suggests that many of these products return to store shelves months later with the same dangerous ingredients.
The findings suggest that health authorities may be fighting an uphill battle against a small number of supplement companies that repeatedly sell contaminated products. The new study, published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that out of more than two dozen supplements that were pulled from shelves after they were found to contain anabolic steroids or powerful prescription drugs, roughly two-thirds were back on the market a year later with the same illicit ingredients.
Most of the supplements were marketed for weight loss, exercise and sexual enhancement, and they were sold across the country at convenience stores, in health food shops and over the Internet. They were found to contain steroids and prescription drugs like Viagra and Prozac, an antidepressant.
The study also found that several of the weight-loss products contained Sibutramine, an amphetamine-like drug that was removed from the market in the United States, Asia and Europe after a clinical trial showed it increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Since 2004, about half of all F.D.A. drug recalls have involved dietary supplements found to be contaminated with banned pharmaceutical ingredients. Supplement industry trade groups say that these products are usually manufactured and sold by a few bad actors who represent the fringe of the roughly $33 billion a year supplement industry.
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