Health Products for Seniors:

'Anti-Aging' Products Pose Potential for Physical and Economic Harm

GAO-01-1129: Published: Sep 7, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 2001.

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Janet Heinrich
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Evidence from the medical literature shows that a variety of frequently used dietary supplements marketed as anti-aging therapies can have serious health consequences for senior citizens. Some seniors have underlying diseases or health conditions that make the use of the product medically inadvisable, and some supplements can interact with medications that are being taken concurrently. Furthermore, studies have found that products sometimes contain harmful contaminants or much more of an active ingredient than is indicated on the label. Unproven anti-aging and alternative medicine products also pose an economic risk to seniors. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have identified several products that make advertising or labeling claims with insufficient substantiation, some costing consumers hundreds or thousands of dollars apiece. Federal and state agencies have efforts under way to protect consumers of these products. FDA and FTC sponsor programs and provide educational materials for senior citizens to help them avoid health fraud. At the state level, agencies are working to protect consumers of health products by enforcing state consumer protection and public health laws, although anti-aging and alternative products are receiving limited attention. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress (GAO-01-1139T).

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