Many consumers consider dietary supplements to be natural and, therefore, safe.
In fact, the Council for Responsible Nutrition reported in 2017 that 87 percent of US consumers have confidence that dietary supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, oils, microbiome bacteria and amino acids, are safe and effective.
Unfortunately, their confidence may be misplaced when it comes to supplements for male sexual dysfunction and weight loss.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, 776 dietary supplement products from 146 different manufacturers sold between 2007 and 2016 contained synthetic/prescription drugs.
Most of these products are marketed for just two conditions, sexual enhancement (45.5 percent) or weight loss (40.9 percent).
Most recently, on November 30, the FDA advised consumers not to purchase a product called Willy Go Wild, available online and in some retail stores because the product includes hidden prescription drugs.
Why does this matter?
As a pharmacist and dietary supplement researcher, I’m concerned about the hidden inclusion of these prescription drugs in supplements.
It increases the risk of patient harm, and it allows people to attribute the benefits and harms they experience to an herb rather than to the true culprit – the added drug.
This makes it harder for doctors and pharmacists to decipher in what types of patients these natural therapies could be used and in whom they should be avoided.
It is considered malpractice for pharmacists to fill prescriptions for erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs like Viagra, Levitra or Cialis if patients are taking nitrate drugs, such as nitroglycerin pills or spray or isosorbide mono/dinitrate.
These nitrate drugs are often used to treat chest pain or heart failure.