If You're Using Any of These Supplements, Call a Doctor, FDA Warns

You could be putting your health at risk, especially if you take other medications.

Dietary supplements are meant to do just what their name suggests—give you a boost of the vitamins or minerals you may be deficient in. Maybe you take calcium, vitamin D, or vitamin C for an immunity boost, or perhaps you just pop a daily multivitamin you picked up from the drugstore. Supplements are common, and according to Harvard Health, over-the-counter (OTC) dietary supplements constitute a "big business," generating more than $30 billion every year in the U.S., with a large portion of consumers being older adults.

But despite their popularity, some medical professionals question whether or not supplements really offer any health benefits. Making matters worse, certain varieties of supplements could actually be dangerous to consume, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned. Read on to find out which products are under fire, and why you might need to contact your doctor if you've taken them.

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Many supplements have some potential complications attached.

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Not all supplements are created equal, and some have been found to do more harm than good, especially when overused. For example, vitamin A is a crucial component in your body, keeping your immune and reproductive systems running smoothly, and also helping your hair stay healthy. For those who are losing their hair, vitamin A can be used to stimulate growth, but taking too much can have the opposite effect in the form of hair loss. Vitamin A toxicity can also occur if you take too much, leading to more serious health complications, so experts advise consulting your doctor to see if you actually require supplementation.

But vitamin A is a fairly common and mostly safe supplement. Now, the FDA is warning about a different kind of supplement, which could have hidden and harmful ingredients.

Certain sexual enhancement products recently underwent FDA testing.

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On July 12, the FDA issued warnings to four companies after it was found that they were illegally selling honey-based products that could threaten consumers' health.

According to the warning announcement, letters were sent to Thirtsyrun LLC, MKS Enterprise LLC, Shopaax.com, and 1am USA Incorporated dba Pleasure Products USA, as their products contained active drug ingredients, but didn't list them on the label. The products in question are sold for sexual enhancement, but were marketed as food—such as honey—and made "unauthorized claims" about treating disease and improving health, the FDA said.

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They can pose threats to your health, especially if you're on other medications.

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Testing performed by the FDA found that the OTC products contained active drug ingredients found in Cialis, known by the generic name tadalafil, and Viagra, also known as sildenafil, both of which are FDA-approved and used to treat erectile dysfunction in men. Inclusion of these drugs violates federal law, according to the FDA, as both Cialis and Viagra are meant to be used under medical supervision. When taken with other prescription drugs that contain nitrates, these ingredients can negatively interact and lead to dangerously low blood pressure. Nitrates are often taken by people with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease, the agency said.

"Tainted honey-based products like these are dangerous because consumers are likely unaware of the risks associated with the hidden prescription drug ingredients in these products and how they may interact with other drugs and supplements they may take," Judy McMeekin, PharmD, FDA Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, said in a statement.

According to the announcement, some products in the warning letters are "unapproved new drugs" as they claim to treat different diseases, which need to be diagnosed or treated by medical professionals. Other products were marketed as supplements, but the FDA notes that both Cialis and Viagra do not fall under the dietary supplement umbrella.

Talk to your doctor before using these products.

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If you're taking or considering taking one of these OTC products, the FDA advises talking to your doctor, as they can interact with other medications and supplements you take. If you've already taken these sexual enhancement products and think that you have become ill as a result, stop using the product immediately and reach out to your doctor. Healthcare providers and consumers are also asked to report adverse reactions to the FDA via MedWatch or the Safety Reporting Portal.

The four companies have 15 days to respond to the FDA, and failure to address the issue will lead to legal action. This isn't the first time that the agency has addressed this issue, warning customers earlier this year about other honey-based sexual enhancement products containing hidden drug ingredients.

The FDA is urging consumers to be wary of products with hidden drug ingredients sold online, particularly on Amazon, eBay, and Walmart, as well as in stores.

"Products marketed with unidentified ingredients may be dangerous, and, in some cases, deadly to consumers. We encourage consumers to remain vigilant when shopping online or in stores to avoid purchasing products that put their health at risk, and instead seek effective, FDA-approved treatments," McMeekin said.

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