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Abu Dhabi: Dozens of products being touted as dietary supplements but which actually contain a hidden prescription drug or compound that has not been adequately studied in humans, have been found to be sold across various herbal or natural product shops.

Dr Mohammad Abu Al Khair, Head, Pharma/Medicine and Medical Products Regulation Section - at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD), told Gulf News that till now about 10 slimming products have been withdrawn from shelves, such as Hydroxycut, Zein Alatat slimming capsules, Seven Slim, Natural Max slimming capsules, and Payouji tea.

"Most of these products were found to be sold on shelves for many years, especially across herbal or natural products shops. They are rarely found in pharmacies," he said.

Most of the products are adulterated with "sibutramine" — the drug substance which was banned last year, or phenolphthaline (the chemical substance that was never allowed to be used in medicine). Some products were analysed by other regulatory authorities like MHRA, FDA and found to contain high levels of heavy metals like lead or arsenic.

Side effects

"Any time we find a product that may harm public health, we will withdraw it in cooperation with other government authorities. Unfortunately, dozens of these products are used by the public and every day we see new products in the market. The issue is that these products are being touted as dietary supplements but actually contain hidden prescription drugs or compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans," said Dr Al Khair.

The side effects that can result from use of these products depend on the substance of adulteration, which vary from one to another. However many serious adverse effects are expected to occur, namely, cardiac problems, stroke, high blood pressure, liver damage and kidney problems.

In his advice to consumers, when using any product marketed as a dietary supplement, Dr Al Khair suggests that buyers check with their health care professional about any nutrients needed in addition to a regular diet.