MHRA warns public of potentially-dangerous sports supplements

Posted 30 July 2012

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency of the UK (MHRA) today warned people to be wary of buying illegal sports supplements because they might contain dangerous ingredients that could cause kidney failure, seizures and heart problems. 

The campaign launched in the run up to the Olympics is part of the MHRA’s ongoing commitment to protect people from potentially-dangerous products. The MHRA has asked major supplement suppliers to submit their products for review and is focussing on higher risk substances containing Ephedrine, Synephrine and Yohimibine which have been linked with side effects such as kidney failure, seizures and heart complications. 

An MHRA investigation found that 84 illegal products such as energy and muscle gain products are being sold that contain dangerous ingredients such as steroids, stimulants and hormones. The MHRA has taken action and has issued warnings instructing retailers to remove these products from sale. 

The campaign follows recent MHRA enforcement action that took an adulterated steroid product off the market called Celtic Dragon. This product left two men hospitalised with severe jaundice and liver damage. 

David Carter, the MHRA’s manager of the borderline medicines section said: 

“People need to be aware that buying illegal sports supplements can seriously damage your health. The products may claim to boost your energy or muscle but they could contain unapproved ingredients that can cause kidney failure, heart problems or seizures. 

“We recommend that people only use approved products and speak to a qualified medical practitioner if they have any concerns about any supplements they may be taking.” 

UK Anti-Doping Chief Executive Andy Parkinson said: 

“Elite athletes need to exercise extreme caution when it comes to deciding what they put into their body and a vital part of our prevention programme is educating athletes in the risk of supplements. 

“Athletes who use sports supplements need to choose reputable manufacturers who can justify their claims with scientific evidence, and have their products screened to minimise the risk of testing positive for a substance on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List. 

“UK Anti-Doping continues to work closely with the MHRA to protect the health of athletes and to prevent doping in sport.” 

Notes to Editor 

1. Ephedrine, Yohimbine and Synephrine are drug substances that are extracted from certain herbs.  Each is capable of causing significant physiological effects, especially to blood pressure and heart rate. They have considerable potential to cause harm if used without medical supervision or advice. Products containing these substances would normally be subject to controls as Prescription Only Medicines. 

2. The MHRA is the government agency responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work, and are acceptably safe. No product is risk-free. Underpinning all our work lie robust and fact-based judgements to ensure that the benefits to patients and the public justify the risks. We keep watch over medicines and devices, and take any necessary action to protect the public promptly if there is a problem. We encourage everyone – the public and healthcare professionals as well as the industry – to tell us about any problems with a medicine or medical device, so that we can investigate and take any necessary action.
Press release
Date: 23/07/2012 Time: 14:00
Subject: MHRA warns public of potentially-dangerous sports supplements
Contact: Press Office 020 3080 7651 or [email protected] Out-of-hours 07770 446 189

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