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The Latest on Internet Pharmacies, Supplements, Designer Drugs,
and Other High-Risk Merchants

Is It Safe? Introducing LegitScript Healthcare Product Search

Ever wonder if those diet pills you saw advertised online are safe? What about the “100% natural sexual enhancement” supplements? Now there’s a place you can go to find out.

LegitScript is pleased to roll out a new search feature (in beta): LegitScript Healthcare Product Search, available on our home page. This is the world’s first and only global database (as far as we know!) that tells you whether dietary supplements or other healthcare products are known to have any safety problems. You can find out whether a product is known to contain toxins or active pharmaceutical ingredients, is marketed with unsupportable claims, or has some other problem suggesting a risk to your or your animal’s health.

Unlike prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, which must be approved for sale by each country’s drug safety authority as safe and effective, dietary supplements are typically subject to less regulation and scrutiny. It can be difficult to know if they are safe or effective. While many supplements have no known problems, thousands of others have been tested or reviewed by some reliable authority –– not only the US FDA, but also its counterparts in countries ranging from Canada and EU countries to Singapore or Australia –– and found to either contain dangerous ingredients or inappropriately imply safety or medical effectiveness. For example:

  • Dozens of weight loss supplements such as Meizitang, Fruta Planta and Green Coffee 800 have been tested and found to contain sibutramine, a controlled substance prescription drug linked to heart failure –– not merely by authorities in the US but around the world (e.g., Australia’s Food Authority).
  • Some bodybuilding supplements, such as Superdrol, Madol and Tren, have been linked to acute liver failure.
  • Heard your kid talking about Space Monkey, Zombie Breath or Ivory Wave? These are “psychoactive highs” (also called “herbal incense,” “bath salts” or “legal highs”) –– chemical creations increasingly popular with kids that are designed to mimic street drugs but that can be equally or more dangerous, some of which the US Drug Enforcement Administration has warned about.

After six months of development, our database contains 1,552 psychoactive substances (e.g., herbal incense or bath salts), 1,295 bodybuilding supplements, 5,110 dietary supplements, 41,585 prescription drugs, 2,557 over-the-counter products, and hundreds of products in other classifications (e.g., Listed Chemicals). Our list grows by hundreds each week.

How we classify these substances. It’s important to understand that LegitScript’s Healthcare Product Search isn’t a certification or approval program. We don’t test the products for content, and there will never be any “LegitScript-approved” dietary supplements. There are, however, four classifications for all of the thousands of products in our database.

  1. Neutral. This is the best possible classification a healthcare product not approved by the FDA or one of its international counterparts can get. It doesn’t mean LegitScript endorses or recommends the product; it simply means we aren’t aware of any problems with it, and currently adopt a neutral position. We neither recommend use of the product nor advise against it.
  2. Per se problematic. These are products that LegitScript is unable to recommend consumers buy or Internet platforms allow to be sold or advertised. This is typically for one of two reasons: Either the product has been tested by a competent authority (e.g., the FDA or one of its global counterparts) and found to contain dangerous chemicals, or the problem is inextricably intertwined with the product (e.g., products with names like “Breast Cancer Tea Formula” that imply a miracle cure). There are also cases, such as all psychoactive highs (e.g., herbal incense and bath salt products), in which the product is simply designated as “per se problematic” once LegitScript observes it being used and marketed for the purpose of “getting high.”
  3. Context-dependent problematic. These are products that have been documented as inappropriately marketed currently or in the past. It does not necessarily mean that these products are inherently dangerous or unsafe, but rather that the products have made unsupportable claims to treat or cure certain conditions. An example here would be “North Korean Red Ginseng,” which was inappropriately marketed as a treatment for insomnia, diabetes and asthma.
  4. Approved drug. These are prescription-only or OTC drugs that have been approved as safe and effective by the drug safety authority where the drugs are primarily marketed. Examples include Lipitor, Abraxane, some formulations of Adderall, or Acetaminophen.

Over the coming days, we’ll devote additional blog posts to looking at each of the four categories above. Because we just rolled this out, our project is in “beta” form, and we look forward to users’ input and suggestions!