Supplements marketed to improve memory and cognitive function, the authors of a study published online in Neurology: Clinical Practice, frequently contain unapproved drugs and often at supratherapeutic dosages.

Pieter A. Cohen, M.D., from Cambridge Health Alliance in Somerville, Massachusetts, and colleagues examined the presence of unapproved pharmaceutical drugs (omberacetam, aniracetam, phenylpiracetam, or oxiracetam) in 10 over-the-counter dietary supplements marketed to improve memory and cognitive function.

The researchers found that omberacetam and aniracetam were identified in the 10 products tested, along with three additional unapproved drugs (phenibut, vinpocetine, and picamilon).

Consumers could be exposed to pharmaceutical-level dosages of drugs by consuming recommended serving sizes, including a maximum of 40.6 ± 0.4 mg omberacetam, 502 ± 0.8 mg aniracetam, 15.4 ± 0.3 mg phenibut, 4.3 ± 0.1 mg vinpocetine, and 90.1 ± 0.7 mg picamilon.

Several of the drugs detected were not declared on the label, while several that were declared were not detected.

Seventy-five percent of declared quantities were inaccurate for the 12 products with drug quantities provided on the label. When using individual products, consumers could be exposed to dosages that are up to fourfold greater than pharmaceutical dosages and as many as four unapproved drugs.

The presence of these five unapproved drugs in supplements, including at supratherapeutic dosages, the authors warned, suggested serious risks to consumers and weaknesses in the regulatory framework under which supplements are permitted to be introduced.


REFERENCE: Cohen et al: Five unapproved drugs found in cognitive enhancement supplements;