The Food and Drug Administration issued an important warning this past week to consumers who have suffered a concussion or other traumatic brain injury. The FDA said that while lots of rest is a good idea for those suffering from concussion symptoms such as headache, confusion or mood changes, taking special dietary supplements will do nothing to improve your condition.
The FDA made its announcement after several makers of nutritional supplements ramped up their marketing efforts related to products that are being sold to consumers as concussion cures. A spokesperson for the FDA said that the agency has been taken aback by some of the claims made by the supplement makers who pretend to be able to help athletes and others heal from traumatic brain injuries.
The FDA says that not only are the claims wholly without scientific merit, but they might actually be dangerous to athletes or others who have suffered a brain injury. The reason is that if victims of a traumatic brain injury believe they have been cured thanks to a nutritional supplement, it is possible that they will return to dangerous activities and increase their chance of sustaining a second, possibly worse injury.
The FDA says that the three companies so far have been warned about their unscientific claims and that they must stop trying to market themselves as cures for head injuries. The FDA says that it learned about one of the companies, Star Scientific, after members of the military complained about veterans, a large group of TBI sufferers, being aggressively marketed to.
In the U.S., vitamins and other nutritional supplements do not require pre-market testing and approval from the FDA. This means that these supplements are never subjected to the arduous clinical testing process that FDA-approved pharmaceuticals must go through. As a result, supplements cannot be sold by claiming they cure or prevent disease given that they have never been vetted for this purpose. When manufacturers cross this line the FDA issues a warning, the first step in a process of escalating sanctions.
In the case of Star Scientific, the FDA says that the company was marketing the product on its website as a cure for the “loss of spatial memory retention following TBI.” A bottle of 300 pills sold for $99.99. Oddly enough, the FDA noted that the same substance in the supposed concussion cure, anatabine, was also being sold by the company for $25 as a facial cleanser.