The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees supplements, so any vitamins and herbs you buy for arthritis symptoms, whether at the store, online or even at your doctor’s office must be safe – right? Not necessarily. Although every over-the-counter (OTC) drug must have been proven safe and effective before it’s released, FDA regulations only require that supplements must not be “adulterated” or “misbranded,” and asking manufacturers and distributors to follow safety requirements of the FDA and the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994.
If the FDA uncovers violations, it issues a warning or may recall the product. “But the process can take months and even years. In the meantime, potentially harmful products continue to be sold,” says Pieter Cohen, MD, an internist at Cambridge Health Alliance, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston and a leading expert on supplement safety. (FDA.gov reveals just a handful of recalls in the past year, for issues including salmonella contamination and undeclared ingredients.)