Herbal Supplement Crackdown —Alan Franciscus, Editor-in-Chief

On February 3, 2015, the New York State Attorney General’s office announced that four major chains (GNC, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens) were selling herbal supplements that could not be verified to contain the labeled substances in the listed ingredients.  Worse yet, many of the substances tested and found were not listed on the labels.  The letters sent out by the State Attorney General ordered the retailers to immediately stop selling the supplements. 

What most people do not realize is that herbal supplements are not regulated to protect consumers.  New York state is introducing a bill to regulate herbs and supplements.   

In the brands tested only 21% had verified ingredients that were listed on the product label. The remaining 79% contained other fillers that included rice, beans, pine, citrus, asparagus, primrose, wheat, houseplants, wild carrot, and other fillers.  These could be potentially dangerous to people with allergies to these substances.  Of note, one sample contained only 4% of the particular ingredient that was listed on the label.

The bigger question is:  How is a person to know what herb or supplement to trust?  There are a couple of options—some require a paid subscription.  But the cost could well be worth an investment to make sure that the herbs and supplements are of stated potency and dollar value: 
Always tell your medical provider of any supplement or herb (prescribed or over-the-counter) that you are currently taking for potential drug-drug interactions.

The Full Prescribing Information for a particular Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug lists all the possible drug-drug interactions.  For instance, St. John’s wort (a common herb) should not be taken when people are being treated with HARVONI or VIEKIRA PAK.  All of the ‘Labels’ can be found on our website  http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis

While the tests were conducted just in New York State (in 13 regions) it is likely that the same ingredients are similar to store brands found in other states.  The tests were conducted using a DNA testing technique performed by Dr. James A. Schulte II of Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. on samples purchased at the stores from across New York State. 
I have copied the information from the New York Attorney’s press release about the herbal preparations tested.  

Press Release:
A.G. Schneiderman Asks Major Retailers To Halt Sales Of Certain Herbal Supplements As DNA Tests Fail To Detect Plant Materials Listed On Majority Of Products Tested.




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