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Five Unapproved Drugs Found in Cognitive Enhancement Supplements.

OBJECTIVE: To identify the presence of unapproved pharmaceutical drugs in over-the-counter dietary supplements marketed to improve memory and cognitive function.

METHODS: Supplements were identified by searching 2 supplement databases for products labeled as containing omberacetam, aniracetam, phenylpiracetam, or oxiracetam, 4 drugs not approved for human use in the United States. Products were purchased online and analyzed using nontargeted liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry methods.

RESULTS: In the 10 products tested, omberacetam and aniracetam were detected along with 3 additional unapproved drugs (i.e., phenibut, vinpocetine and picamilon). By consuming recommended serving sizes, consumers could be exposed to pharmaceutical-level dosages of drugs including a maximum of 40.6 ± 0.4 mg omberacetam (typical pharmacologic dose of 10 mg), 502 ± 0.8 mg of aniracetam (typical pharmacologic dose 200-750 mg), 15.4 ± 0.3 mg of phenibut (typical pharmacologic dose 250-500 mg), 4.3 ± 0.1 mg of vinpocetine (typical pharmacologic dose 5-40 mg), and 90.1 ± 0.7 mg of picamilon (typical pharmacologic dose 50-200 mg). Several detected drugs were not declared on the label, and several declared drugs were not detected in the products. For those products with drug quantities provided on the labels, 75% (9/12) of declared quantities were inaccurate. Consumers could be exposed to up to four-fold greater than pharmaceutical dosages and as many as 4 unapproved drugs when using individual products.

CONCLUSIONS: Over-the-counter cognitive enhancement supplements may contain multiple unapproved drugs. The health effects of consuming untested combinations of unapproved drugs at unpredictable dosages without clinician oversight in supplements are unknown.

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