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Herbal Supplements Under Attack from Regulators and Consumers

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Washington, DCIf you take any pill, you’re supposed to know what’s in that pill. That’s the basis for regulations concerning pharmaceuticals. But when it comes to herbal supplements, the rules are more relaxed, and it turns out that some herbal supplements may have been sold without the ingredients their labels claimed they contained. Now, some herbal supplement makers have received warning letters from New York’s Attorney General - and lawsuits from consumers angry that the herbal supplements they thought they were purchasing might not have been all they were cracked up to be, with ingredient labels not telling the full story of what the herbal supplements contained.

Even selling a placebo in place of an active ingredient is an issue. If consumers pay for St. John’s Wort, they should get St. John’s Wort. Falsely labeling medications - even herbal supplements - is a violation of consumer protection laws. So although there might not be health problems associated with putting a filler in place of St. John’s Wort, consumers purchased the herbal supplement believing the active ingredient would help them. Not putting the active ingredient in the supplement - making the herbal supplement essentially useless - is illegal.

But according to official reports, not all of the fillers, houseplants and other ingredients that contaminated the herbal supplements were harmless. Some are linked to allergic reactions; others are linked to gastrointestinal problems. Still others might interact badly with the consumer’s other medication, causing complications.

And there can be health effects. According to an article in the New York Times (2/3/15), in 2013 an outbreak of hepatitis was linked to tainted supplements. That outbreak affected 72 people and resulted in one death and three liver transplants. The cost of mislabeled supplements can be high.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has sent letters to four retailers because their supplements were found to either not have ingredients included on the supplements’ label or have extra ingredients not included on the label. Companies that received the warning letters were GNC, Target, Wal-Mart and Walgreens.

GNC responded to the attorney general’s letter with a letter of its own, posted on Forbes (2/16/15), noting that it had done its own analysis and found that the products are pure and properly labeled in compliance with regulatory standards.

According to reports, lawsuits have now been filed against the companies named by the attorney general. According to Daily Business Review (2/11/15), a lawsuit seeking class-action status was filed on behalf of Kelly Reyes against GNC, alleging certain herbal supplements were mislabeled as herbal when they contained little or no plant matter. Meanwhile, lawsuits have reportedly also been filed against Walgreens, with Plaintiff John Hollins requesting consolidation of 10 class actions against Walgreens for multidistrict litigation.

Target and Wal-Mart reportedly also face lawsuits seeking class-action status.

The Walgreens case is In re: Walgreens Herbal Supplements Litigation before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.


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Posted by

My experience with vitamins/supplements have lead me to believe that the fillers used replaces the vitamin or supplement listed on the label. My research explains the fillers are not good and can cause adverse reactions. A couple I have experienced for myself; i.e. gastrointestinal problems, ph imbalance and vision problems. I bought from Puritan's Pride, Swanson's and others for many years until I started reading the ingredients list discovering magnesium stearate or vegetable stearate, which can cause problems to the body and because the words "magnesium" and "vegetable" are listed, the consumer is mislead into thinking these are healthful ingredients.

Posted by

Puritans Pride is a New York Company that has Vitamins and Supplements for a long time... I have dealt with them for a LONG TIME... They Guarantee everything they sell...

Is there any complaint against them...??

Posted by

Please notifiy me when this settlement is taking claims. I have been buying these at Wags a long time.


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