Users and Buyers Beware

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Anabolic steroids (i.e. testosterone) have been the most frequently abused appearance — and performance-enhancing drugs. Up until the 1980s, use of these drugs was mostly limited to athletes. However, since the 1980s, the drugs have become more widely used by men with the goal of improving appearance and building muscle mass. More recently, newer drugs called selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) have come into wider use and the use of anabolic steroids has decreased somewhat. SARMs are under development for use in aging and muscle-wasting diseases but, to date, none have been approved for these uses by the FDA. SARMs are available without a prescription through the internet, however, the extent of their use is unknown. Last year a study was published that investigated their use and availability. The investigation included chemical analysis of the products and comparison to the bottle labels.

The investigative team purchased 210 products from 51 internet suppliers that advertised that their product contained a SARM. The suppliers were found using Google search engines on Chrome and Internet Explorer web browsers. Forty-four of the products contained the following compounds, none of which is a SARM: Ostarine, Andarine, Testalone, Cardarine, Endurobol, and Stenabolic. In 41 percent of these 44 products, the amount of active compound listed on the label matched the chemical analysis. In 25 percent of the products, the compound listed on the label was found but in higher or lower amounts than that listed on the label and in 18 percent the compound listed on the label was not found.

In the products that actually had a SARM listed on the label, only 52 percent were found to actually contain that compound and of that 52 percent, 59 percent had more or less of the compound than what the label stated. Almost 40 percent of the products were found to contain an unapproved drug that was not listed on the label, including substances like growth hormone-related drugs and other compounds banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). In five products purchased from one supplier, none contained any of the compounds listed on the label. In addition, nearly half of the products were sold as dietary supplements. The FDA defines dietary supplements as products taken by mouth that contain a “dietary ingredient” like vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, and botanicals. None of the tested products met the definition of a dietary supplement.

Many of these products are produced by small laboratories both inside and outside of the U.S. and, thanks to the internet, their products may be easily purchased from anywhere on the globe. The ease of website creation makes it possible for suppliers to create and remove websites as often as they may to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. Anyone taking these products who is an athlete that is subject to random drug testing, may be putting themselves in jeopardy for an inadvertent positive screen for banned substances. In short, anyone taking any of these “muscle-building” compounds might as well take them while wearing a blindfold because, essentially, you will have no idea what you are actually putting into your body.

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