Warning over ‘natural’ brain-boosting supplements sold in the US that contain FDA-rejected dementia drugs which can fuel depression and anxiety
- Harvard researchers have found piracetam, a banned drug in the US, openly listed on the labels of at least five brain-boosting supplements
- The drug has side effects of anxiety and depression when given in small doses
- Researchers warn there is no telling how much piracetam there is in these unregulated supplements
Several brain-boosting supplements sold in the US contain an FDA-rejected drug that is sold in other countries to treat dementia patients.
Piracetam was denied approval to be sold as a dietary supplement in the US after a major review of 24 studies involving 11,000 patients in 2012 found it had little impact on cognition.
And yet, Harvard researchers have found the drug openly listed on the labels of at least five brain-boosting supplements sold to Americans online.
Experts warn that supplements fall into a grey area of regulation, meaning there is no knowing what proportion of these products is piracetam, a drug that can cause anxiety, depression, and agitation even in small doses.
Harvard researchers found three makes – Relentless Improvement, Nootropics, and Specialty Pharmacy – explicitly sold their products as piracetam. Two other suppliers, BPS and Cognitive Nutrition, had different names for their products, but listed piracetam on the label
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Monday, are only the latest account of piracetam finding its way into US households.
In fact, it has become something of a favorite in Silicon Valley among workers who micro-dose brain-enhancement drugs known as ‘nootropics’, from the Greek words for ‘mind’ and ‘bending’.
Piracetam itself was invented in 1964 by Corneliu E Giurgea, the Romanian chemist who coined the term ‘nootropics’.
But the FDA has been steadfast in its refusal to follow EU countries in approving the drug for dietary use, playing whack-a-mole with suppliers.
The study, by Dr Pieter Cohen and colleagues at Harvard Medical School, showed that another FDA warning is in order.
They found three makes – Relentless Improvement, Nootropics, and Specialty Pharmacy – explicitly sold their products as piracetam.
Two other suppliers, BPS and Cognitive Nutrition, had different names for their products, but listed piracetam on the label.
Experts say they are stunned at the blatancy.
‘It seems kind of bold to put a non-approved substance on the label,’ Dr David Seres, associate professor of medicine at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center, told the medical news site Stat News.
‘It’s horrifying but not terribly surprising.’