Whether you are looking to buy weight loss, male enhancement, or some other products these days, you are likely to be looking for them online rather than in a physical store.
But buyer, beware. When you buy such products, you may in fact be obtaining an illegal product; and this product may contain potentially hazardous ingredients not listed on the label.
This is not a new development. Over the past decade, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has frequently warned consumers that some over-the-counter (OTC) products, including those sold over the counter “virtual”, contain hidden active ingredients. that could be harmful. Hidden ingredients are a problem in products promoted for weight loss, bodybuilding, pain relief, sleeping pills, and sexual enhancement. Often, products containing active ingredients in FDA approved drugs are misrepresented as dietary supplements.
It is clear from the results of our decade of testing that retailers and distributors, including online marketplaces, are not effectively preventing the sale of these types of potentially harmful products to consumers.
The FDA has also found products marketed as supplements claiming to treat or prevent serious illnesses such as cancer, HIV, and COVID-19. These products are generally unapproved drugs that have not been reviewed by the FDA for safety or effectiveness, and consumers should not buy them.
What you don’t know can hurt you
Take weight loss and male enhancement products, for example. The FDA recently tested nearly 70 of these products found on Amazon, eBay, and Walmart.com, and found most of them to contain active pharmaceutical ingredients not listed on the label. These hidden ingredients can interact with other medications you are taking, or they can be associated with serious side effects.
All 29 products the FDA purchased from Amazon and 20 of 25 products (80%) purchased from eBay and half of products purchased from Walmart contained undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients. FDA lab tests found that the products contained various undeclared active ingredients, including sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil, sibutramine, desmethylsibutramine, phenolphthalein and / or fluoxetine. Most of these active ingredients are found in prescription drugs approved by the FDA, including Viagra and Cialis; others have been withdrawn from the market for serious safety concerns.
How to identify dangerous products?
It is easy for people to sell a potentially dangerous product online. We advise consumers not to purchase the weight loss, sexual enhancement, bodybuilding, sleep aid, and pain relief products that are listed in the public notifications at the links above.
If you are considering purchasing a product marketed as a dietary supplement, please consult the FDA Contaminated Products database, where you will find nearly 1,000 of these potentially hazardous products listed. The agency updates the database as it finds new products containing undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients; however, new products and new websites are appearing all the time, and it is impossible for the database to keep up.
Even if a product has a different but similar name or is not on the list, you need to be careful. Also watch out for products sold in one or two capsule packs that promise immediate results. The FDA is working hard to identify and remove potentially dangerous products from the market, but it is a constant, ongoing effort.
Steps to take to stay safe
If you are considering using a product in any of these categories, talk to your doctor first. Ask your doctor to help you identify reliable and credible information about the product.
Do not take any over the counter products that claim to treat, cure, or prevent serious illness such as HIV or cancer. Products approved to treat or prevent serious illnesses are generally prescription products, the use of which is limited under the supervision of a licensed healthcare practitioner.
- Be careful about trusting consumer reviews that include claims to cure and prevent miraculous diseases.
- Be aware of websites that direct you to online marketplaces to buy products. The claims made on these websites regarding a product’s ability to prevent or treat disease have not been reviewed by the FDA.
- Check out BeSafeRx for how to buy drugs safely online.
And finally, if you sustain a product-related injury, don’t just add a product review to the online marketplace; Please also report your concerns to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program so that the agency can take appropriate action to protect consumers from any unsafe products. Consumers are also encouraged to report illegal sales of products sold online.