Amazon's Fake Supplements Market

Amazon has taken the role of national boutique, furniture warehouse, and even auto-part store. But is the world ready for a Doctor Amazon? Over 20% of Americans buy medications and supplements over the internet. The convenience of online shopping coupled with the increasing interest in herbal remedies and supplements promotes these sales. While buying medications online for a fraction of the price may seem like a bargain, there are many dangerous risks associated with these purchases that come at a much higher cost.

The Counterfeit market

According to the FDA, about 10% of drugs sold around the world are counterfeit. The lack of strict regulation and the high-demand-low-cost of production is a gateway for the $32 billion fake drug market. The Official Medicines Control Laboratory (OMCL) in Italy analyzed counterfeit medicines and supplements seized by the Italian police force and customs. The samples did not contain all the ingredients labelled, had different ingredients than labelled, including forbidden and prescription-only, and had inaccurate quantities of the labelled active ingredients.

"What else is in there?"

Beyond incorrect labeling, ingredients in unlicensed medicines and supplements were found to be in fact dangerous to human health. In the OMCL study, 61% of the samples seized online were found to contain illegal substances, including doping substances! Dangerous levels of metal intake can cause heavy metal poisoning. In reports found in the Medicines and Health Care Products Regulatory Agency, arsenic, lead, and mercury were present in unlicensed Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines. Some patients from the United States contracted lead poisoning after using some of these unapproved medicines.

Risky business

Buying medicines and supplements from Amazon may be cheaper, but there are significant risks that come with these sales. Your safety should not be bargained with. Consult a Licensed Health Care practitioner for your medical needs where medications and supplements are coming directly from a certified manufacturing company. Online shopping at sources like Amazon are not backed with the expertise of how to deal with your unique situation and the products themselves do not have to meet many standards. Go to your Licensed Health Care practitioners for what it is you need and where best to get it from.


Desai, Karishma, et al. “Health Care Use Amongst Online Buyers of Medications and Vitamins.” Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy, vol. 11, no. 6, Elsevier Inc, Nov. 2015, pp. 844–58, doi:10.1016/j.sapharm.2015.01.001.

Gaudiano, Maria Cristina et al. “Health Risks Related to Illegal and on-Line Sale of Drugs and Food Supplements: Results of a Survey on Marketed Products in Italy from 2011 to 2013.” Annali dell’Istituto superiore di sanita 52.1 (2016): 128–132. Web.

Mullaicharam, A. “Counterfeit Herbal Medicine.” International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology, Neurological Diseases, vol. 1, no. 2, Medknow Publications Pvt Ltd, July 2011, pp. 97–102, doi:10.4103/2231-0738.84191.

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