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Consumer Reports Lists Drug Pushing Celebrities

Tim Boyer's picture

In an article titled “Celebrity endorsements: Who’s selling what,” in the March issue of Consumer Reports magazine, analysts of the magazine point out that drug pushing celebrities are a poor reason for deciding to buy a product. And, that supplements are not under the same quality control as prescription meds.

Body-building, weight loss and sexual performance enhancing supplements are among the top 3 products manufacturers target celebrity endorsements with in order to tap into a buyer’s hot button of what he or she would like to emulate through the magic of a little pill. However, while the subconscious (or not) message is clear, what isn’t so clear is whether these supplements are harmless, let alone effective.

In one example, Consumer Reports mentions former Dallas Cowboy’s head coach Jimmy Johnson’s endorsement of ExtenZe, a sexual-enhancement supplement for men that Johnson pitched with “If you’re like me and want maximum performance, give ExtenZe a try.”

Some lots of ExtenZe were recalled in 2011 after the FDA discovered that some packages of the product were counterfeit consisting of undeclared ingredients such as the two erectile dysfunction drugs Viagra and Cialis, and the weight loss drug sibutramine, which was previously removed from the market due to evidence that it increased the risk of stroke and heart attack. ExtenZe has also been accused of using deceptive marketing practices by indicating that ExtenZe can actually increase the size of a penis.

According to health officials, spiking health supplements with hidden and potentially harmful ingredients is a growing problem because of the lack of regulation in the supplement industry.

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Consumer Reports quotes Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., director of the FDA's division of dietary-supplement programs saying, "We've had more than 400 recalls of spiked products since 2008." Most of which, notes Consumer Reports, were marketed for bodybuilding, sexual enhancement and weight loss.

Aside from the matter that supplements can be harmful, the use of celebrity endorsements of supplements should be viewed with a “buyer beware” eye due to the monetary rewards of placing a celebrity name beside a product. Consumer Reports states that Michael Vick, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles earns a $1.55 million endorsement deal including performance bonuses for a 3-year contract promoting MusclePharm— a line of supplements claiming to enhance performance and mental function, boost endurance, build muscle, speed recovery, fuel fat loss, improve sleep, and enhance libido.

Furthermore, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky receives $150,000 including company stock for a 1-year deal promoting MYO-T12—a supplement that its manufacturer says inhibits the body’s production of myostatin, a protein that restricts muscle growth.

Consumer Reports summarizes their article with the practical advice of seeing your doctor or pharmacist before trying any supplement regardless of who is pushing the drug. And, if your problem is sexual in nature—which is the focus of many supplements—that you may be experiencing an underlying health problem that requires help from a professional rather than a pill.

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Reference: Consumer Reports March 2011