Given that they are both used for health purposes, it would be easy to assume that medications and supplements are regulated the same way and produced to the same standards, but unfortunately this is not the case. Unlike medications, supplements are regulated post-market, which means that no regulatory body evaluates the contents or safety of supplements before they are sold to consumers. Take a look below to learn more about the many differences between medications and supplements, and how those differences make supplement use risky for athletes.
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a comprehensive evaluation process for medications, assessing everything including the packaging, the design of clinical trials, and the manufacturing conditions.
Reliable Ingredient Labels
Medications must list every ingredient on the Drug Facts label, and these ingredients are confirmed through quality control analysis by the FDA.
Proven Safe Before Sale
To help protect consumers, medications are subject to strict premarket regulation, which means they go through a rigorous safety and efficacy evaluation process before reaching consumers.
Eliminate Your Risk: Global DRO
Global Drug Reference Online (Global DRO) allows you to search the prohibited status of specific medication brands and ingredients. Get started at: GlobalDRO.com
No FDA Review
Supplements don’t undergo any evaluation process or testing by the FDA before they are made available to consumers. In fact, most supplement companies are never inspected by the FDA to ensure manufacturing best practices.
Unreliable Ingredient Labels
Manufacturers may misidentify prohibited substances on Supplement Facts labels, or they may fail to list prohibited substances altogether.
Proven Unsafe Before Sale
Because they are regulated post-market, supplements are sold to consumers until it becomes evident that they are harmful following consumer adverse event reporting. Even then, supplements with illegal or dangerous ingredients may remain on shelves for years.
Minimize Your Risk: Supplement 411
Supplement 411 offers various tools to help athletes realize, recognize, and reduce supplement risk, including a High Risk List of examples of products containing prohibited substances: Supplement411.org/HRL