Peter’s Memo: Why bogus opioid-withdrawal supplements should be banned

Peter G. Lurie, CSPI President You can set your clock by it. Whenever the nation is beset by some new health scourge, the charlatans emerge with their miraculous cures.

Ebola, H1N1 flu, West Nile Virus. They all spawned products promising to inoculate the healthy or cure the infected.

The Food and Drug Administration, as it should have, warned the manufacturers of those products that their treatments and “vaccines” were unapproved.

It’s time to expand that fraternity of frauds to include the manufacturers of bogus opioid addiction cures.

The opioid epidemic prematurely snuffs out the lives of more than 30,000 Americans each year. The FDA has approved three drugs to treat opioid addiction: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

While only about 20 percent of people with an addiction are in treatment, any new treatment would be invaluable.

Make that any new effective treatment. That means scratching the supplements made by the eight companies contacted by David Schardt for his article in this month's issue.

Despite making claims like “helps ease withdrawal symptoms” and “speed detox,” the companies produced no adequate evidence that their pills worked. Worse yet, some didn’t even feel that they needed to.

“Scientific studies are very costly, so no, there is no study,” acknowledged one manufacturer.

In December, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action’s publisher, asked the FDA to ban the opioid-withdrawal supplements made by the eight companies, and asked the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit the companies from using phony claims in their advertisements.

But until the Feds act, it’s buyer beware.

At least people won’t have to worry about falling for the bogus claims made for one opioid-withdrawal supplement.

Roughly a year after the FTC reached a $1.4 million settlement with the makers of Elimidrol, 5,379 people who had been lured by the supplement’s “false and misleading” claims were sent partial-refund checks.

(Elimidrol is still being sold online, but only as a vague “life-enhancing support supplement.”)

“By peddling their unproven product,” said the FTC, “these defendants have prevented people from seeking legitimate treatment.”

And that’s exactly the point. The opioid epidemic is bad enough. Luring desperate patients away from treatments that work is about as low as it gets.

It’s time to put an end to that.

Peter G. Lurie, MD, MPH, President

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Photo (pills): © OBprod/