Widespread Supplement Fraud

Discussion in 'Health & Fitness' started by ollinger, Nov 6, 2013.

  1. ollinger

    ollinger Legend

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    A troubling medical study reported in yesterday's New York Times, summarized from the medical Journal "BMC Medicine." Canadian researchers purchased 44 different popular herbal/nutritional supplements sold in the US and Canada, and made by a large variety of different companies. They then applied a sophisticated DNA analytic technique to see if the pills actually contained what they purport to contain. About a third of them contained no trace of what was supposed to be in them, often instead containing things like rice powder and various weeds. Even some people from the supplement industry who were interviewed agreed there is inadequate oversight and regulation. (Reminded me of a study of drugs purchased from internet sources, done a few years ago. The researchers purchased 5 drugs which I believe included Xanax, Viagra, Ambien, an oral narcotic like Percocet or Oxycontin, and another I can't recall. They analyzed them and found all of them to be generic haloperidol (Haldol), a commonly used antipsychotic), with no trace of the advertised drug.)
     
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  2. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ It is a shame that the NY Times was not willing to disclose the guilty brands. It would also be helpful to know if any of the offending products were GMP certified. That would give us some indication if GMP compliance really means something.
     
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  3. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    Nothing to worry about. Senator Hatch has everything under control.
     
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  4. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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  5. LafayetteHitter

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    Honestly what possible good does a study like this do if they don't call out the brands? I'm sorry but it's basically useless.
     
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  6. ollinger

    ollinger Legend

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    ^^ Useless to the consumer, but I don't think it's intended for the consumer. It's to call attention to healthcare legislative groups that the industry needs to be much more tightly regulated, with product testing, as is done with pharmaceuticals.
     
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  7. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    The good could be that a few more people wake up and start realizing that for most healthy people, supplements are pricey snake oil.
     
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  8. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    It raises doubt in my mind whether they believe in the accuracy of their dna barcoding tests.

    Otherwise, why not name the brands?
     
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  9. tinyman

    tinyman Rookie

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    The moment they do, they get slapped with litigation - and defending it (right or wrong) is nothing short of a small fortune. It has happened before in that industry, and the group who conducted this isn't looking to be the next victim. The folks running the study literally cannot afford to take on that fight.
     
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  10. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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  11. tinyman

    tinyman Rookie

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    Couldn't be sure why they didn't do that. My guess is that it's on the same lines of reasoning - they don't want to put out any information that allows conclusions and/or guesswork to be made. Of course, that may not be the reason in this case - it is, at best, a WAG based on my somewhat limited experience. I have absolutely no education in law, but it would not surprise me if a company could take the lab to court, if they can show that their data was used in someone making guesses as to culprits, and try to hold them liable. I also have not seen the actual reports, so there may be information that I'm not aware of.

    What is really bogus is that they cannot release identifying data, because a company with decent funds can simply wage an attrition war in court. Meanwhile, and make no mistake of it, the companies that would be otherwise guilty have already won this round of the fight, as they are not going to be identified.
     
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  12. ollinger

    ollinger Legend

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    The supplement news just keeps getting worse and worse. Front page article in Sunday's (yesterday) New York Times reports a surge in liver disease due to supplements. About twenty percent of serious medication-induced liver disease, including many cases leading to transplant, is now due to supplements. The most common offenders are body-building supplements, weight loss supplements, and supplements as innocuous seeming as concentrated green tea. Damage has resulted both from the claimed ingredients in the supplements as well as adulteration with unlisted ingredients.
     
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  13. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I don't do body-building and weight-loss supplements but I do take a whole bunch of others like multivitamin, fish oil, CoQ 10, aspirin, plant sterols, ashwagandha, a cinnamon-fenugreek formula, and couple of Ayurvedic formulas. I am nervous that articles like this are probably encouraged by Big Pharma and they may succeed in getting them banned, like they tried in Europe. The cinnamon-fenugreek formula once lowered my sugar from 98 to 72 in two weeks. Ashwagandha (withania somnifera) is known to lower BP and produce good sleep. Subjecting these age-old formulas to the same billion-dollar testing of prescription medicines is a joke. What makes me nervous is that the bad guys who adulterate the stuff or make false claims and the good guys will both be trapped in the same dragnet.

    There are many many natural remedies found in Nature which are known to ancient systems like TCM, Tibetan medicine, Ayurveda and Native American traditions. If they became popular, many of the expensive prescription medicines will lose their market. We must stand up against attempt of the pharmas to come between us and Nature.
     
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  14. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    And many of the smaller supplement companies also can't fight the government when it goes after them with the backing of big Pharma.
     
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  15. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Modern life requires supplements. No one eats 8 servings of vegetables or whatever per day.
     
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  16. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    Bacon news just gets better and better. Bacon Times reports that bacon is healthy:

    http://bacontoday.com/top-10-reasons-bacon-is-actually-healthy-for-you/

    Paleo man does
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2013
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  17. ollinger

    ollinger Legend

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    sureshs
    A decade ago this board was littered with posts about how we would never see electric cars because Big Oil won't allow it. Others suggested that once the price of gasoline stayed high enough long enough to make electric cars competitive, we would see them. SURPRISE!! Electric cars are here, with many more to come shortly. The suggestion that Pharma is behind the supplement news is unsupported, and reminds me a bit of that overestimate of the power of Big Oil. I'm still close to people at Mt. Sinai in NYC, a major liver transplant center and the medical school where I began my research career, and there isn't much doubt among those people that supplements are the culprit in many cases of liver failure, as the article suggests. You probably know that many European countries banned the supplement kava kava some years ago because of cases of liver failure.
     
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  18. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Ollinger,

    I think you are partially correct, but also partially wrong. I haven't researched supplements recently, but about a decade ago when I was looking into the legislative battles there was plenty of evidence that pharmaceutical companies were lobbying to have supplements brought under prescription and to apply FDA rules (safety and efficacy) for new drugs to existing supplements and vitamins.

    This would have wiped out most of the supplement industry because few people would be willing to pay the tens of millions to hundreds of millions needed to seek approval for a supplement which was then not patentable.

    In my experience, most physicians don't like supplements because they don't like people seeking to cure themselves outside of a doctor's office. Also, much of the profit that has accrued to physicians has come from being gatekeepers to antibiotics, so physicians have an inherent conflict of interest with respect to wanting to put things on prescription.

    I don't doubt that some supplements are actually harming people. However, the FDA doesn't have a good record even when dealing with deadly contamination. I recall studying the l-tryptophan deaths in the late 1980s and was surprised that the FDA banned l-tryptophan even though all the credible research I saw suggested that the deaths were traceable to batch out of Japan that was contaminated.
     
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  19. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    The problem of fraud can not be tackled in a dregulatory supplements regime as no one is looking except the occasional university researcher.

    Electric cars are being kicked along not simply by the price of gasoline but by government incentives due to the need to reduce global warming.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2013
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  20. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    But politicians are not rational like doctors. They won't just ban kava kava and a few other things.

    Big Pharma, Big Oil and Big Tobacco may be overestimated - only because they are afraid of lawsuits. Recently, Tobacco MNCs have started suing poor countries which are restricting tobacco ads under the guise of non-compliance with international treaties. WHO said that the lion has bared its teeth. As they get chased out of one country after another, they continue to exploit whatever they can - including the clauses meant for free trade to help poor people achieve a higher standard of living. These executives are criminals, plain and simple.

    Big Oil is also into alternate energy, so they have a finger in every pie. But they are also behind the anti-climate-change campaign. Basically, whatever you do to combat climate change also helps the environment, even if the data for climate change is not of the kind that can be proven as a geometry theorem. But they have cleverly separated the two issues. So, no, their power is not overestimated. They are behind every effort to install pro-oil politicians in DC and behind every war in the Persian Gulf.

    I admit that I don't know much about Big Pharma except that they have a huge clout in the WHO because of the vast amounts of "free" stuff they "donate" which the WHO cannot turn down.
     
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  21. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Supplements are regulated by the FDA currently in the US. They just aren't regulated as closely as pharmaceuticals. The regulation is less than for pharmaceuticals and more than for most food.

    Fraud is definitely occurring with some producers, and occasionally fines and prosecutions are brought.

    There is at least one for-profit lab testing supplements. Sort of Consumer's Report of supplements.

    There are big brands which have good reputations. But supplements is such a broad category that there are now tens of thousands of products and plenty of scammers. Food also is being more subject to scams given the higher inflation rate. For example, a lot of the honey being exported from China contains almost no honey. A lot of olive oil contains very little olive oil.
     
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  22. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Physicians cannot easily recommend supplements because they will become liable if something goes wrong. I don't expect them to go out on a limb. They have a protocol which they must follow. That is the trust that they cannot betray.

    So, knowing their limitations, I look to alternative sources of information when it comes to supplements and I know much of it will be hearsay. That is a freedom I want to keep. It is much more important than "political" freedom and it is time people woke up to the fact that control over your body is the most basic freedom, not whether you can dance naked with a gun in an airport.

    I have used supplements successfully on myself, my wife and my parents. I do not usually ask my son to take them (except multivitamins every couple of days) because I want only adults to be guinea pigs.
     
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  23. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    There seems to be room in the market for a supplements company that can guarantee scientifically the contents of their product through a third party test lab attached to a university or the like.
     
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  24. Overdrive

    Overdrive Legend

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    My goodness, should people start developing their own gardens and farms to make EVERYTHING?
     
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  25. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    It sounds like the testing regimes are actually quite cheap these days so regulatory auditing of products would not be onerous for the consumer.
     
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  26. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Probably.

    A lot of big retailers run their own labs. I know Costco tests a lot of what they sell. So if you buy olive oil at Costco it most likely is what it says on the label. Trader Joe's also has the reputation for testing what they sell or sourcing it themselves.
     
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  27. Overdrive

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    It must suck to be the test subjects...
     
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  28. Overdrive

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    On a serious note, I guess that people should buy products at the local farmer's market (that isn't backed by suits).
     
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  29. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

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    On a different but related note:


    The trade organization representing the nation’s largest food and beverage companies wants permission to label as “natural” products that contain genetically engineered ingredients like corn, soy, canola and sugar, according to a letter sent to the Food and Drug Administration.

    In the letter dated Dec. 5, the Grocery Manufacturers Association said it planned to petition the agency to issue a regulation that would allow foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled “natural.”
     
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