True story. I ordered $450 worth of pharmaceutical grade supplements from Amazon, and as I am a Prime member I received them within two or three business days. Convenience; what would life be without it? For those who question how you could spend such an exorbitant amount of money on supplements, one container of Pure Encapsulations N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) 900mg, 240 capsules, on Amazon is $73.90 alone. Add in: BodyBio PC Phosphatidylcholine (100 capsules) for $133.61 and Cal-Mag Butyrate ($60.70); Thorne Research Basic Nutrients IV Multivitamin ($43.70), L-glutamine Powder ($58.00), and QBest 100 ($41.00); and Perque Potent C Guard 16oz ($46.87) and all of sudden my cart contains $449.78 of high quality supplements. While at times you may find a bargain on Amazon, the real bonus is that you receive your order with a quick turnaround time. All is well — until your shipment arrives containing nothing but counterfeit products.

At first glance, nothing looks amiss; however, as a health coach I have a heightened level of awareness in what my supplements look like, smell like, their consistency, and more importantly, what information is included on their label. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the l-glutamine powder because their was no safety label and the scoop was blue and round. As mentioned, I have been taking this for quite some time and know the scoop is a clear plastic cone-shaped scoop. So I called Thorne Research to ask if they changed their scoop. No. Red flag.

I then took a look at my Basic Nutrients IV Multivitamin and saw that a label was placed on top of an already-existing label underneath. Seriously. Red flag. And it gets better! The Perque Potent C Guard is typically dense and effervescent like Alka-Seltzer; however, this time it was fluffy, lacked the bubbles I am used to seeing and did not even taste the same. More, there was no lot number on the label. Another red flag. My bottle of CoQ10 had a label that was removed with a new one below where the pre-existing label was, and if the stickiness wasn’t indication enough that something was wrong with this supplement, the color of the pill wasn’t even the same. Again, red flag. No lot numbers, no expiration dates, missing security seals, fake labels; all this adds up to counterfeit products that can cause more harm than good…and I lost count of my red flags!

The unfortunate truth is that Amazon and Ebay, in addition to other major retailers like Walmart, Target, Walgreens and GNC (O’Connor, 2015), do not regulate their dietary supplements. If you buy from a third party seller versus directly from the company or a trusted health practitioner, you have no guarantee that your supplement is safe or real with no means of tracking where the product even initially came from. In fact, a recent article by Forbes found that 25% of Amazon’s Marketplace is nothing more than Chinese knockoffs (Shephard, 2017) — and this only covers products from China! If you find a pharmaceutical grade supplement on Amazon for cheap, you better bet your bottom dollar that it is counterfeit, meaning the amount of the main ingredient is either untraceable, beyond what is indicated on the label, or contain nothing more than sawdust. Moreover, supplements that have expired may be relabeled and sold with fake expiration dates and no lot numbers to trace back to. Simply put, they are dangerous.

The whole purpose of purchasing pharmaceutical grade supplements is that they contain higher quality ingredients backed by stringent testing and research before being brought to market. Products I trust include: Orthomolecular, BodyBio, Premier Research Lab, Thorne Research, Integrative Therapeutics, Zymogen, Biotics Research, Douglas Labs, Perque, NuMedica, Energetix, Beyond Balance, Allergy Research Group, Pure Encapsulations, Metagenix, and Nordic Naturals. Just make sure that you purchase them from proper suppliers!

 

O’Connor, A. (2015, February 3). Alternative Medicine. Retrieved July 9, 2018, from The New York Times: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/new-york-attorney-general-targets-supplements-at-major-retailers/

Shephard, W. (2017, September 27). Amazon.com: The Place Where American Dreams Are Stolen By Chinese Counterfeiters. Retrieved July 9, 2018, from Forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2017/09/27/amazon-com-the-place-where-american-dreams-are-stolen-by-chinese-counterfeiters/#2009f6664c72

The Truth About Ordering Supplements on Amazon or Ebay: Buyer Beware