FDA goes after makers of alternative diabetes treatments

The federal government estimates almost 26 million people in the U.S. suffer from diabetes. That means treatment for the disease is big business. And now, some companies that make diabetes treatments could be facing legal action from the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA is trying to shut off sales of what it calls bogus products that claim to treat the disease. The FDA has sent warning letters to 15 companies, telling them to stop selling the products.  

The FDA is targeting products sold as “natural” or homeopathic treatments for diabetes. The FDA says some of them contain active pharmaceutical ingredients that could hurt people taking them.  Companies that sell diabetes drugs online without a prescription are also being targeted.

The market for diabetes medications is huge. $22 billion worth of prescription diabetes drugs were sold last year.  According to health care consultant Jerry Katz, who says the market is growing, fast.

“Sales have increased 60 percent over four years," he explains. "They were at almost $14 billion. They’ve gone to $22 billion. It’s an extraordinary growth.”

Katz says makers of diabetes supplements and other products want to piggyback on that growth, with slick marketing portraying their products as alternatives to prescription medications. Katz says people with diabetes bought the manufacturers' claims. But that may stop, now that the FDA has gone so publically against them. 

Concerned you may have taken an illegally sold diabetes treatment? Learn more on the FDA's website here.

 

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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