While I have never been a big fan of dietary supplements, far be it for me to criticize the entire dietary supplement industry. Clearly there are people that have clinically documented vitamin deficiencies and require supplementation as a result. There are also certain disease states where dietary supplementation is definitively indicated. And, like those of us who rush out to get a Vitamin C supplement at the first sign of a cold (including myself), there is certainly a place for legitimate dietary supplements. However, when a firm markets a product that is not a dietary supplement by definition for a purpose that is questionable, at best, then I have a problem with that, and, apparently, FDA does too.
Yesterday, the FDA warned consumers about the risk of certain “claimed” dietary supplement for body building (here) and specifically named a few brands. These products, says the FDA, “are not dietary supplements” and are “illegally marketed products labeled to contain steroid and steroid-like substances and promoted to increase muscle mass and strength.”
Such products can cause severe liver damage (amongst other significant adverse events). FDA has sent Warning Letters to the firms, citing the fact that they are unapproved drugs and noted that other actions (including product seizure and injunction without further warning) could occur. Seems like you can’t go one evening of late night TV viewing without seeing an ad for a bodybuilding “dietary supplement” or a product to help boost testosterone levels. Recognizing that the FDA has limited resources, maybe it is time for advertisers to take some of the responsibility for accepting and running ads for illegally marketed “dietary supplement” products. Something must be done to protect the consumer and, perhaps, it is time for an entire overhaul of the dietary supplement regulations and the enforcement paradigm associated with these products.