Jun 15, 2017

Dr. Jones: Well, you just happen to be at your computer and your sex life was on your mind and you Googled women's low libido. An amazing number of natural products came up with rather naughty names. Well, what about this? This is Dr. Kirtly Jones from Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Utah Health, and this is the scope of supplements on The Scope.

Announcer: Covering all aspects of women's' health. This is the Seven Domains of Women's Health with Dr. Kirtly Jones on The Scope.

Dr. Jones: Recently the FDA announced a recall of two supplements marketed to increase women's sex drive called Libido-Max and Zrect. These supplements have a prescription chemical called flibanserin in them that was not disclosed. Flibanserin is a drug in the prescription medicine called Addyi for low libido in pre-menopausal women, which has some significant side effects including dizziness and passing out.

This is the first time the FDA has recalled a product contaminated with this drug, but it's just the latest in the recall of a number of supposedly natural supplements for men and women's libido which have been found to have drugs in them. In the case of some men's drugs for libido, they included drugs for animals not approved for humans. Some of the drugs for men that were recalled were Uproar and Monkey Business and Rectalis and some other names I really don't want to say out loud in The Scope studio.

So the supplement business is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. With many of my patients who have come with a bag of their medicines with questions for me, and this bag might have many bottles of supplements that claimed the contents would be used for one problem or another. At the bottom of the bottles was the statement required by the FDA, "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not indicated to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

My patients would ask if these supplements were good for them and I could only answer that I don't know what's in them and that there's no standards for the herbs or supplements in them except for ordinary vitamins and minerals. Now the FDA's mandate is to evaluate the safety of food and the safety and efficacy of drugs it has no mandate and does not evaluate any supplements. Nobody does, except some independent researchers.

Over the past several years studies have found that over 25% of supplements for athletic performance are contaminated with steroids, stimulants, and banned substances. And in 2008 two products were pulled off the market because they were found to contain about 200 times more Selenium, an element that some believe can help prevent cancer, than their labels said and people got sick. According to the FDA about 50,000 adverse reactions to dietary supplements occur every year.

So what should you do? First of all, if natural supplements really worked, without the pharmaceuticals contaminating them, we would all be taking them. And if herbal supplements really worked better than placebo the company wouldn't need to add those drugs to the mix. So number one, eat a balanced diet and if you cannot or have a particular issue like pregnancy make sure your vitamins and minerals are tested.

Two, dietary supplements are complex products. The FDA has established good manufacturing practices, GMPs for dietary supplements to help insure their identity, purity, strength and composition. These GMPs are designed to help prevent the inclusion of wrong ingredient, the addition of too much or too little, and the possibility of contamination, and proper packaging and labeling. But the FDA doesn't really monitor these, they may actually inspect facilities periodically, but what does periodically mean?

Three, in addition, several independent organizations offer quality testing and allow products that pass these tests, to display their seals of approval. Some of these organizations that do testing include the US Pharmacopeia, the Consumer Lab, and NSF International.

And lastly, if the supplement has the statement "proprietary blend" on it, then all bets are off as to what's in it and how much is in it. We all want to feel well and function at our best. The supplement business survives on that hope. For our Scope listeners, just be careful and skeptical and thanks for joining us on The Scope.

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