(HealthDay News) — Two-thirds of dietary supplements recalled by the FDA because they contained banned ingredients remained on store shelves at least 6 months after they were recalled, according to a research letter published in JAMA.

Pieter Cohen, MD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues analyzed 27 of 274 supplements recalled by the FDA. The mean time of purchase was 34 months after recall. That means half were purchased before 34 months and the other half after that time. 

According to the researchers, banned substances identified in recalled supplements included the weight-loss drug sibutramine and drugs similar to sibutramine, sildenafil (Viagra), fluoxetine (Prozac), phenolphthalein, aromatase inhibitors and a number of anabolic steroids. 

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Of these supplements, 74% were made by U.S. manufacturers. The researchers found one or more banned drugs in 66.7% of the supplements they bought.

Specifically, banned drugs remained in 85% of supplements used to enhance sports performance, in 67% of supplements used for weight loss and in 20% of supplements used for sexual enhancement, according to the researchers. 

Moreover, 63% of the supplements contained a drug the FDA had cited in recalls. In addition, six supplements contained one or more banned ingredients not identified by the FDA, and some contained both the previously identified ingredient plus new drugs.

“I recommend avoiding all supplements that are sold as if they will help you lose weight, improve your workout or improve your sex life because we just don’t know which of those contain these dangerous drugs and which ones are benign,” Cohen told HealthDay.


  1. Cohen PA et al. JAMA. 2014;312(16):1691-1693.