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‘Natural’ not always better in the world of drugs and supplements

The Food and Drug Administration closely monitors prescription drugs to help ensure consumer safety. However, it is not only prescription or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals which may have side effects leading to undesirable drug interactions or even a drug injury. Supplements labelled as “natural” can also be wrought with side effects and, may not necessarily be fully “natural.”

While the FDA has limited control over the supplement market, they can test products and provide consumer warnings. This can be helpful to the public to prevent problems related to defective drugs or defective medication masquerading as supplements. Recently, the FDA has heightened awareness about multiple brands of sexual enhancement supplements after test results showed that the products contained sildenafil, the active ingredient in the prescription drug Viagra. Some products did not have the exact chemical sildenafil but had ingredients with very close chemical structures that would provide similar effects.

The concern for consumers should be the ease with which essentially prescription drugs can be obtained, even with recommended dosages higher than what the FDA would approve if sold as a licensed pharmaceutical as opposed to a natural supplement. Safety regulation allows the FDA to issue warnings and, so far this year, the agency has 24 such warnings noted. Of the products involved in the warnings, 10 have been recalled voluntarily by the manufacturers or distributors.

Consumers should exercise caution when purchasing supplements and be mindful of any side effects they may notice. In the event of a suspected adverse reaction, it can be helpful to speak to a product liability attorney with experience in drug safety.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “FDA raises alarm about ‘natural’ sex supplements,” Julie Deardorff, July 28, 2013


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