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  • Supplements for Alzheimer’s Treatment? The FDA Says No


    Americans are an optimistic bunch. There’s nothing we love more than to try a wide variety of fringe, homeopathic, or eastern medicine to cure what ails us. Most of the time, it can have some success. Our cold can be alleviated with Zinc lozenges, our aches and pains can be help with acupuncture and so on.

    Dementia is a different type of condition altogether. There is no time-table for recovery because the disease is progressive by nature. With over 72 types of Dementia, and nearly 6 million diagnosed cases yearly across the country, it’s understandable that the ‘outlandish’ may seem perfectly plausible for treatment. Like many perennial diseases, hope will spring eternal in the quest for a cure.

    It appears the FDA has had enough. On February 11, 2019 the agency mailed letters to 17 companies it accused of illegally marketing dietary supplements as dementia treatments. In response, most companies removed the language in question. The supplements included vitamins, minerals, and herbal products. They also include compounds that were previously investigated as AD treatments but showed no efficacy against dementia in large trials.

    The products cited in the warning and online advisory letters posted today are unapproved new drugs and/or misbranded drugs that claim to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease and a number of other serious diseases and health conditions, and have been sold in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The products include a variety of product types, such as tablets, capsules and oils. The companies have been asked to respond to the FDA within 15 days of receipt of the letters, stating how the violations outlined in the agency’s letters will be corrected. Failure to correct the violations promptly may result in legal action, including product seizure and/or injunction.

    The supplement market expanded because regulations for these products are much looser than for drugs. Under the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), products are reasonably expected to be safe and labels to be truthful and not misleading, but unlike drugs, companies are not required to test either the safety or efficacy of dietary supplements. This is because according to DSHEA and the FDA, they are considered foods, not drugs. Most supplements are naturally occurring compounds that can be found in plants, animals, or the human body. This does not mean they are healthy. Socrates, if he came back from the dead, would likely say he was killed by a cup of hemlock—an extract from a flowering herb.

    Our advice to you and yours is to remember to consult your physician or health practitioner if you’re considering incorporating supplements into your diet. Be sure to cross-check it against your current medication list for interactions. Supplements and alternative treatments can be a wonderful addition to a healthy and holistic lifestyle. We would never discourage exploration of unconventional remedies, but please be sure to include medical professionals in your discussions.

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