Whether you call them nutraceuticals, supplements, or something else, you probably rely on these supportive products for treatment at times. Nutraceuticals are not FDA-approved. They are not considered drugs, and the labeling is not allowed to make therapeutic claims. They must bear a statement such as “This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or mitigate disease.”
These products vary in quality. One study found that 9 of 11 chondroitin sulfate products tested did not match label claims; the variance ranged from 0 to 115% of the labeled strength. Less expensive products did have more variation, but costly products also had variation (1).
Tips for finding high-quality products
- Obtain products from reputable sources. Avoid going with the cheapest option you find online. Stick to online pharmacies that have a “.pharmacy” domain name. Sites approved by the National Associations of Boards of Pharmacy will work with either “.com” or “.pharmacy.”
- Since there can be a lot of variation between brands, use the same brand cited by studies showing efficacy.
- Stick with known brands and ones bearing a quality verification stamp from ConsumerLab, NSF International, U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) or UL; these products have been verified to contain what the label says they contain.
- Ingredients should be expressed in either metric or apothecary units. If a single product uses a mix of units, this may indicate a low-quality product.
Additional resources for information on nutraceuticals include:
- Quackwatch (https://www.quackwatch.com)
- NCCIH (https://nccih.nih.gov)
- ConsumerLab (https://www.consumerlab.com)
- ACVN (https://www.acvn.org)
By Lauren Forsythe,
PharmD, DICVP, FSVHP
Medication Dispensary Coordinator
- Adebowale AO, Cox DS, Liang Z, et al. Analysis of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate Content in Marketed Products and the Caco-2 Permeability of Chondroitin Sulfate Raw Materials. JANA;3(1):37-44.