You need to know about supplement dangers
The issue: The government doesn’t enable consumers to learn of the reported dangers of dietary supplements in a timely way.
Our take: In late November, the makers of the popular weight-loss supplement Hydroxycut agreed to a $25.3 million settlement to resolve claims that its diet pills were deceptively advertised as safe and effective. The Food and Drug Administration recalled Hydroxycut and issued a warning in 2009, after dozens of reports of serious adverse events, including liver toxicity and at least one death. Prior to that, the only danger signs the public got were case reports in medical journals.
Most dietary supplements are relatively safe, but those peddled for weight loss, sexual enhancement, or bodybuilding may be spiked with questionable ingredients. Supplements don’t have to be tested for safety before they’re sold, so problems often appear only after they hit the marketplace.
Since 2007 supplement makers have been required to report serious adverse events to the FDA. More than 6,300 reports have been filed, but the FDA doesn’t routinely post summaries on its website, shrouding serious hazards for months or even years. Consumers Union believes the public should get that information immediately. There’s clear interest: The FDA’s eventual warning about Hydroxycut was the fourth most clicked-on health update on the agency’s website in 2012.