Not all pills are created equal-especially when it comes to medications and supplements. The Food and Drug Administration has stringent requirements for pharmaceutical manufacturers when it comes to medications. Can the same be said of supplements?
The Label Should Be True
The claim on the label should be true, but these claims are not evaluated by the FDA. The truth is, they don’t have to be. The FDA oversees regulation on food and medicines—both in different ways. When the label says “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration…” it’s because it hasn’t been, and it doesn’t have to be, but the claims on the label should be true. Once the supplement is marketed in the U.S., the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission monitors the label and packaging insert to insure it’s not misleading. If you have found a label to be false or outlandish, you can report it to the FDA yourself by using the Safety Reporting Portal [https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov].
Natural Doesn’t Mean Safe
Today, consumers are drawn to words like “natural”, “organic”, and “extract”. These are words you often see on a supplement label, and they’re likely truthful—but are they safe? Not always. Medications list extensive side effects, but supplements aren’t required to do so. A supplement may be completely natural, and may have a truthful claim, but it may affect something else in your body that is vital for your health. It is also risky to take supplements when you don’t see a doctor regularly, because dietary supplements may affect undiagnosed conditions, putting your health at risk.
Supplements May Affect Your Medications
You can insure your safety by discussing dietary supplements with your doctor. Because medications come with much more information than supplements, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if a supplement you’re considering may interact with conditions you have or medications that you take. St. John’s Wort is one very popular supplement that is truthful in its claims, and helpful to many consumers seeking relief from depression and sleep disorders. However, the very supplement that offers these benefits may change the way other drugs work in the body. Important medications like beta blockers and birth control pills can be less effective when taken with St. John’s Wort. There are other supplements and even vitamins that will change the way your medications work. Talk with your doctor for the best results from any dietary supplement, over-the-counter medication, or prescription drug.
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs)
All dietary supplements are manufactured according to FDA guidelines that ensure identity, purity, strength, and composition. This means that a supplement company cannot claim to be made of Gingko, and actually be filled with other things to bring down the cost of manufacturing, while also making it less effective. The FDA strives to insure dietary supplements marketed in the U.S. are quality products that are not contaminated, padded with fillers, or shelved with improper labeling or packaging. You cannot be sure when ordering supplements from other markets outside the U.S.
Questions for Your Doctor
What condition is my prescription medication for, and can it be treated with something more natural?
Are any of my conditions caused from deficiencies that can be supplemented naturally?
Does this product have safety risks or drug interactions that may affect my health?
How long can I safely take this product?
When you talk with your doctor about your medication history and list of regular medications, do not forget supplements. Supplements include: vitamins, minerals, herbals, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and many other products, especially sleep aids and weight loss products.