Undeclared drugs in herbal and non-botanical dietary supplements

This post appeared originally on 13 April 2009 at the ScienceBlogs home of Terra Sigillata. An interesting question arose the other day when we discussed the Key West acupuncturist who was diverting prescription drugs for personal use as well as in her practice, designed by doctors. While we are not certain that the defendant put the cited muscle relaxants and anxiolytics in remedies doled out at her practice, we doubt that the demographic she targeted would be too impressed if she were to hand out prescription drugs. This scenario led our scientific and blogging colleague, DrugMonkey, to ask how common it might be for alternative practitioners to dope their herbs with prescription drugs exhibiting known efficacy. He also notes how disingenuous this practice might be in that the alternative practitioner is admitting in doing so that their herbs and elixirs have no efficacy on their own. I can’t speak to trends among individual practitioners but this practice takes a page from the big boys: the dietary supplement industry. I suggest to check https://flexmastergeneral.com/trenbolone-acetate/ where you will find some interesting information. Adulterating commercial herbal products with prescription drugs is so common that the US FDA is keeping a running tally of actions against companies selling supplements containing “undeclared drugs”: the polite regulatory term for deceptive doping of a useless product with a real drug. There are many people out there now who are saying do not by any means put herbal diet supplements in your body, people should only buy the best muscle building supplements if they actually want to take something. Trainers and Dietitians are recommending altering food intake and food choices and following a diet such as the Keto Diet if you really want to achieve long lasting weight loss. We’ve spoken about these cases several times before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Most common approaches have been to dope weight-loss supplements with sibutramine, a prescription amphetamine-like, serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor sold in the US and Canada as Meridia®. The US FDA list on this class of deception has increased from 28 to 69 products since 22 Dec 2008. For example, we get a large number of hits from readers searching for apple cider vinegar capsules and whether they can help one lose weight – well, yes they can, if they contain sibutramine, of course. Another common adulteration tactic is for erectile dysfunction supplement manufacturers to boost their products with prescription phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors such as sildenafil (Viagra®) or related compounds used as an erectile dysfunction treatment. So popular is this approach that the same manufacturer cited above for sibutramine-adulteration of apple cider vinegar products has...

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Getting a rise out of helium

This post appeared originally on 22 October 2007 at the ScienceBlogs home of Terra Sigillata. Sci/Med blogging is an interesting pastime. You can spend a tremendous amount of time writing a post and get two comments and 30 total viewers, or you can write a brief post about your daughter asking where helium comes from and get many more commenters and nearly a thousand viewers. Clearly, the five-year-old is a better source for blog content. Q.E.D. And, wow, what we have learned from our readers in response: one frequent Australian commenter, Chris Noble, confirmed the abundance of helium in Amarillo by noting their next shipment was indeed coming from Texas. Casey pointed us to an NPR story on the current helium shortage and Gretchen wistfully told us to stop filling our balloons so she could complete her experiments. Amarillo native, Biggs, noted the 50-foot high helium molecule in town – isn’t the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo too? (Those Amarillians seem to be enthusiastic about memorializing big things.). Dave S. shared the tidbit that helium was detected on the Sun before it was found on Earth and Dr William Dyer told us that helium is a non-renewable resource because, while it is generated from radioactive alpha decay, the velocity of the particles is greater than the Earth’s escape velocity. Then, while in a colleague’s office the other day, I spotted the 8 October issue of Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) and one of the featured articles entitled, Where’s the Helium? (True to the style of the American Chemical Society, the article is still behind a firewall – they must’ve gotten wind of the fact that a fans of a five-year-old are interested in the topic.). The article is fascinating; the link to the issue’s ToC is here – the helium story may become freely accessible if you are reading this in 2008. I think that many of us know that helium is required to cool magnets required for research NMRs and clinical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) instruments. What Mark Reisch of ACS also tells us is that ExxonMobil is shutting down its Shute Creek helium plant in SW Wyoming for maintenance during this month and “a ripple will spread across the global helium supply.” The warm fall also seems to be having an impact since higher natural gas demand increases industrial yield of helium; more helium is fractionated from natural gas during the Northern hemisphere’s winter. The article also tells us that Algeria and Qatar are about to become major players in the helium market. Just don’t tell our current US president. Addendum: Fellow ScienceBlogger and former Kansan, Josh Rosenau,...

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Arsenic: from drug to poison to drug again

This post appeared originally on 23 May 2007 at the ScienceBlogs home of Terra Sigillata. The 2 May issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has an interesting news article on the advancing use of arsenic trioxide against a variety of human malignanices, mostly cancers of the blood. The medical uses of arsenic reach back more than 2,000 years, but only recently has Western medicine embraced its surprising rise from folk cure-all to proven cancer treatment. The January announcement of positive results in a 6-year NCI-sponsored phase III clinical trial to treat a rare form of leukemia is merely the latest in a series of kudos for arsenic’s medicinal prowess. The latest study affirms that arsenic can effectively maintain remissions in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). But some investigators hope that arsenic could go even farther and eventually replace chemotherapy as a front-line treatment for APL. In 1908, Sahachiro Hata working in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich had identified an arsenic-containing compound they named Salvarsan (arsphenamine, compound 606) that was used to treat syphilis until the advent of penicillin. (The compound number came from it being 606th of those tested against Treponema pallidum in an animal model.). We consider arsenic a poison today, but Salvarsan was a great improvement over organic mercurial compounds of the day. We still try to keep arsenic out of our water and seafood supply, but the old Paracelsan adage seems to hold that it is the dose that determine the difference between a remedy and a poison. The JNCI article notes the recent successes in using arsenic trioxide (Trisenox) to treat leukemias and other cancers and its roots in traditional Chinese medicine: [Mt Sinai School of Medicine Dr Samuel] Waxman was one of the first Western physicians to see promise in the a series of small studies in Chinese medical journals that reported intravenous doses of arsenic trioxide-induced long-term remission in APL [acute promyelocytic leukemia] patients. The medical uses of arsenic reach back at least 2,000 years, but it was political ideology that prompted its modern resurgence, Waxman explained. Arsenic may never have entered the western pharmacopoeia were it not for the Chinese cultural revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, he said. During that time, Western medicine virtually disappeared in China, and physicians turned to traditional Chinese herbal cures that had sustained the culture for millennia. The Chinese physician Zhang Ting-Dong of Harbin Medical University made the initial breakthrough by formulating a stable, low-dose solution of 1% arsenic trioxide in injectable form. Zhang presented his work at a Chinese medical society meeting in the early 1980s and gained interest from colleagues...

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