Friday, December 28, 2007

Be careful with supplements

Today MSNBC quickly picked up on a recently released FDA warning on Chinese made supplements for erectile dysfunction. The products in question are Super Shangai, Strong Testis, Shangai Ultra, Shangai Ultra X, Lady Shangai, and Shangai Regular. It appears that these supplements contain actual Viagra or similar compounds.

So many of my patients take supplements for a variety of reasons. I am not entirely against supplements, but I wish patients had a little more scepticism about supplements, and less about the medications I prescribe. Unlike prescription medications which need to meet the FDA's rigorous standards that they are safe and effective before coming to market, supplements are regulated as if they are food, so as long as there is no proof these products are harmful, anyone can sell them. In addition, it is not clear that even common supplements like vitamins are all that beneficial. A review of 68 trials in over 200,000 patients published in February 2007 in JAMA showed that treatment with beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase your risk of death!

If you are going to take supplements, make sure they are at least from a known and reputable manufacturer so you at least have a better chance of getting a safe product. Next, look at the evidence that these medications can help you, and more importantly won't harm you. Also, if you are taking regular medications, make sure that these supplements won't interact with your medications (many do). Do not be afraid to discuss supplements with your regular doctor.

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