Mimicking Medication: When Supplements Seem Too Good to Be True

In the bustling online marketplace, products claiming to remedy erectile dysfunction (ED) are ubiquitous, drawing the vigilant eyes of global regulatory agencies. These agencies, including Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW), are on a constant quest to identify and warn against hazardous or illicit items. Payment service providers, in particular, must stay informed of these warnings, as non-compliance could result in hefty fines from card brands.

The MHLW, alongside local authorities, engages in covert purchases of supplements online, aiming to unmask those laced with undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) like sildenafil and tadalafil, which are standard treatments for ED. The findings are alarming, with some products containing APIs in doses exceeding those found in approved medications, posing significant health risks.

The issue extends beyond supplements to food items, with certain “men’s coffee” products discovered to contain these undeclared APIs. Such findings necessitate a deeper examination of products marketed with pharmaceutical-like benefits.

A common loophole exploited by online vendors is the “personal importation” rule, which is often misinterpreted. Consumers believe they are legally importing products for personal use, yet they inadvertently breach regulations and expose themselves to potential harm, as these products lack the necessary safety approvals.

Rogue internet pharmacies exploit this rule to peddle not only unapproved drugs and tainted supplements to Japanese consumers but also nicotine e-liquids, questionable cosmetics, and strictly regulated medical devices like contact lenses.

In Japan, marketing unapproved drugs and unauthorized medical devices contravenes the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act, increasing the risk of BRAM and GBPP fines for payment service providers. LegitScript diligently monitors the online landscape for such unapproved pharmaceuticals and tainted supplements, striving to protect the public and guide the payments industry away from problematic merchants.

For those keen on delving deeper into the realm of supplements and their potential pitfalls, LegitScript offers a complimentary guide, “Top 10 Problematic Supplement Ingredients to Avoid,” a valuable resource for discerning the safe from the unsafe in the complex world of dietary supplements.