In a briefing with media today, Joshua Sharfstein, MD, principal deputy commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), outlined the steps his agency is taking to stop the manufacture, distribution and sale of illegal drug products masquerading as dietary supplements—particularly in the body building, weight loss and sexual enhancement categories.

These steps include the publication of a stern letter from FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to the dietary supplement industry outlining its legal obligation to prevent tainted supplements from reaching the market; the creation of an RSS Feed to more rapidly notify consumers and retailers of known tainted supplements; and a mechanism for industry and others to anonymously alert FDA about potentially tainted products.

“Today FDA is calling attention to an important public health problem: serious injuries caused by products masquerading as dietary supplements,” Sharfstein said. “FDA has received numerous reports of serious adverse events and injuries associated with the consumer use of these tainted products, including stroke, acute liver injury, kidney failure, pulmonary embolism and death.”