News Room

Herbal Drug Dangers: Consumers at Risk

By Brian S. Kabateck

Consumers may not realize that so-called “healthy” supplements that pack drugstore shelves actually contain dangerous and non-FDA approved substances. More than 90-thousand different types of vitamins, minerals and herbal drugs are sold across the U.S. which researchers say not only have minimal health benefits but are actually harmful.

Americans spend nearly $13 billion a year on dietary supplements to improve health, sexual performance, lose weight or boost their athletic prowess. While the products may claim to be “all natural”, the active ingredients are actually made in a factory and have been known to cause a long list of health problems including liver damage, heart palpitations and cancer.

A new Consumer Reports study is sounding the alarm about 15 ingredients found in popular herbal supplements that consumers should avoid. Some of the common supplements include green tea extract powder which is sold to assist in weight loss. The study found the extract powder can cause high blood pressure, an accelerated heart rate, dizziness, liver damage and possibly death.

The lax regulation of herbal products is a growing concern. The problem is that “herbal medications” are regulated differently than pharmaceuticals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As consumer advocates, we have the ability to affect change through the judicial system in regulating these supplements.

The federal government has begun cracking down on supplement manufacturers claiming to sell “natural” products when, truly, most of the product is synthetic. Several agencies including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) are joining forces to pursue civil and criminal cases against more than 100 makers and marketers of synthetic chemicals.

Class actions have also been filed based on false advertising as opposed to false labeling. Based on recent case law, it appears that labeling class actions are a more streamlined way to bring cases regarding these supplements. But many of these potentially dangerous products are still readily available at any convenience store. Consumers must be armed with information and ask their doctor about the safety of taking specific supplements. As attorneys, we can keep updated as to the latest FDA studies and bring cases accordingly to get these harmful “supplements” off the shelves.

The list is published in the September issue of Consumer Reports. The full list of dangerous ingredients includes the following:

• Aconite (also called Aconiti tuber, aconitum, angustifolium, monkshood, radix aconti, wolfsbane)
• Caffeine Powder (also called 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine)
• Chaparral (also called Creosote bush, greasewood, larrea divaricata, larrea tridentata, larreastat)
• Coltsfoot (also called Coughwort, farfarae folium leaf, foalswort, tussilago farfara)
• Comfrey (also called Blackwort, bruisewort, slippery root, symphytum officinale)
• Germander (also called Teucrium chamaedrys, viscidum)
• Greater Celandine (also called Celandine, chelidonium majus, chelidonii herba)
• Green Tea Extract Powder (also called Camellia sinensis)
• Kava (also called Ava pepper, kava kava, piper methysticum)
• Lobelia (also called Asthma weed, lobelia inflata, vomit wort, wild tobacco)
• Methylsynephrine (also called Oxilofrine, p-hydroxyephedrine, oxyephedrine, 4-HMP)
• Pennyroyal Oil (also called Hedeoma pulegioides, mentha pulegium)
• Red Yeast Rice (also called Monascus purpureus)
• Usnic Acid (also called Beard moss, tree moss, usnea)
• Yohimbe (also called Johimbi, pausinystalia yohimbe, yohimbine, corynanthe johimbi)

If you or a loved one has experienced health problems due to herbal supplements, please contact KBK for a free case evaluation at 213-217-5000 or fill out the free case evaluation form below.