How to Tell Fake Health Products from the Real Thing

How to Tell Fake Health Products from the Real Thing


Just because vitamins are sold online doesn’t mean they are top of the line. And just because herbs and fruit extracts have been used for generations for their reported medicinal effects does not make them a “cure-all”, especially for cancer.

Thus, the Food and Drug Administration issued the twin warnings to the public against falling for what it called “health scams”.

In a statement the FDA warned the public to beware of fake vitamins sold on the Internet.

Health Sec. Enrique Ona said consumers should check the packaging for information about the manufacturer, date of manufacture and the lot number.

Ona noted that many drugs and vitamins are being sold in packages containing only the name of the distributor, and this was alarming.

For instance, the FDA said it was monitoring a best-selling but allegedly counterfeit multivitamin product.

The FDA clarified that counterfeit products:

* Do not bear the FDA Certificate of Product Registration Number and do not contain the same formulation approved by FDA.
* Do not carry the complete name and address of the manufacturer and/or distributor as required by the FDA.
* The font size of the generic name multivitamin + mineral is not in conformity with the labeling requirements of RA No. 6675, otherwise known as the Generics Law of 1988, which requires that the generic name should at least be one point size bigger than the brand name.

“Products are counterfeit as defined by Republic Act No. 8203, otherwise known as the Special Law on Counterfeit Drugs, and the said establishments are violating the provisions of Republic Act No. 9711, otherwise known as the FDA Act of 2009, which prohibits the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, offering for sale, distribution, transfer, or retail of any drug product by any natural juridical person without the License to Operate (LTO) from the FDA,” it added.

The FDA discouraged the public from buying medicines through the Internet until such time that the agency can assure “the safety, efficacy and quality of medicines sold through this medium” although it has not released official guidelines on the online selling and advertisement of pharmaceutical products.

Check the Label

The agency reiterated that consumers must always check the labels of the medicines they purchase and advised them to buy medicines only from FDA-licensed establishments and outlets.

Buyers should check labels and packaging since most counterfeit drugs have labels that are poor replicas of the original. The pills themselves could be irregularly colored or they crumble easily.

“An illegitimate drug outlet is not supervised by a registered or licensed pharmacist and does not comply with proper documentation of all transactions in procuring and dispensing drug products. Documentation and traceability are vital to post-market surveillance and investigation of adverse drug reactions,” it clarified.

fake drugsThe FDA noted that the huge demand for erectile dysfunction drugs has spawned a lot of “copy-cat” but fake versions in the market.

For instance, instead of giving a man an erection, fake ED drugs may cause apprehension and embarrassment when they don’t work.

The FDA doused cold water on the curiosity about the reported prolonged erections caused by counterfeit drugs since even the real ED drugs do not cause extended erections.

The agency also warned against the proliferation of fake antibiotics, hypertension, diabetes, and other drugs.

It said counterfeit drugs could aggravate a patient’s health problems and cause a failure of treatment, not to mention the financial problems this would bring or they would not work at all, she said.

Consumers should o be vigilant about the medicines they buy and to examine them carefully, the FDA said. If the price of a drug is too low, this should trigger suspicion.

Consumers should also buy from drugstores licensed by the FDA and ask for a receipt so they could go back if they were sold suspect drugs.

If they have doubts, consumers can call the FDA at 156-FDA or 8078275, or text 09092090500.

Supplements Come Short

It is common knowledge that certain vitamins and minerals are necessary for good health. But many people rely on supplements to get their daily supply of essential nutrients.

While convenient—all you have to do is pop a pill or a capsule—taking supplements is not the best way to get your recommended daily allowance of minerals and vitamins.

According to an in-depth report on vitamins by the University of Maryland Medical Center in the United States, “With the exception of vitamin D, supplements are helpful only for certain people… and they may actually be harmful for other people.”

It adds: “Evidence shows that beta-carotene supplements can have harmful effects on smokers, increasing their risk for lung cancer and their overall death rates. Beta-carotene from food appears to be safe.”

While diets high in fruits and vegetables containing beta-carotene, lycopene and other carotenoids may reduce the risk of heart attack, the report says, “Supplements, however, do not reduce these risks.”

Most evidence also suggests that vitamin supplements have little or no benefit against colds or other upper respiratory infections, the reports points out.

The report also strongly recommends getting the nutrients the body needs from natural sources—fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains—that not only provide the essential vitamins but also dietary fiber and equally beneficial minerals. It stresses: “A diet that is naturally high in vitamins can help prevent many diseases.”

[pq]Many popular food supplements such as guyabano, mangosteen, and malunggay extracts touted to fight cancer have not yet been proven in clinical studies to cure cancer patients.[/pq]


– the FDA said.

Supplements not Science-Based

The Philippine Society of Medical Oncology said the supplements not supported by high-level scientific evidence include: homeopathic products, high dose oral vitamins such as vitamin C and collagen, oral stem-cell enhancers or fibroblast growth factor enhancers, vitamin A therapy above 5,000 IU a day, vitamin E during radiotherapy, ozone therapy and heavy metal chelation therapy.

The organization of 196 practicing oncologists said there was also not enough scientific evidence to suggest the use of TRANSFER FACTOR (so-called immune boosters), malunggay oil, mangosteen extract pills, guyabano extract pills, resveratol or grape-seed extract, and intravenous hydrogen peroxide.

“We can’t promote malunggay oil as an anticancer treatment because there are not enough studies on humans,” according to Dr. Ellie May Villegas, PSMO vice president.

As for juice therapies, Villegas said they received a report of a cancer patient who died from severe lactic acidosis after taking large doses of mangosteen juice daily for a year.

“Patients should tell us what they’re taking. You can eat or drink it sparingly but when you take it as a treatment, there’s really no evidence it works,” Villegas said.

She said guyabano has also not been proven to cure cancer.

“So everything should be taken in moderation,” Villegas stressed.

But there are some complementary supplements “supported by high-level scientific evidence,” according to PSMO.

These include fish oil EPA/DHA, vitamin D3; medicinal mushrooms beta glucans such as coriolus, AHCC, astragalus and maitake MD fraction; wheat germ extract such as avemar and IP-6 inositol hexaphosphate; bio-available curcumin; green tea (95 percent ECCG); acetogenin molecules; bio-available Silymarin Phytosome; COQ10 & Alpha Lipoic Acid; American Ginseng, Rhodiola and Ashwagandha; calcium citrate/carbonate; ferrous sulphate/bis-glycinate vitamin B12; whey protein/L-glutamine branched chain amino acids; and polyglycoplex.

Noting the “proliferation” of supplementary medications that claim to control or cure cancer, PSMO president Dr. Felycette Gay Lapus said cancer patients must fully disclose all supplements and medications they take so doctors can advise them whether the substances will adversely affect the standard treatment such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.

[pq]The use of complementary and alternative medicines must be done with caution and with the full approval of the attending physician.[/pq]


– PSMO said in a statement.

Villegas said they understand that patients may want to try alternative treatments, adding that patients can take proven complementary medicines as well as complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, music, and mind-body therapies such as meditation and dietary supplements which are generally regarded as safe.