Saving on OTC (over-the-counter) store-brand products?

We have all bought over-the-counter (OTC) store-branded products to save money.  We did so in the belief that these retailers were ethical and that these products were being tested and identical.  So it is very disturbing when a new report is published on February 2, 2015 by the Attorney General of New York that four major retailers  GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart were selling OTC store-branded products that did not contain the ingredients listed on the label.  And that the Attorney General demanded that they remove the products from there shelves due to the fact that they were potentially dangerous herbal supplements.

2/14/2015  In Follow-up a Harvard professor Pieter Cohen — a noted EXPERT in supplement safety claims that the test used by the Attorney General of New York was not the correct test. 

“There ARE tests that can tell you exactly what’s in an herbal supplement, including chromatography and mass spectrometry… and that genius in New York didn’t use a single one of them. But none of this should matter to you or me. It shouldn’t matter because even if a second set of the RIGHT tests finds the ingredients are a perfect match for what’s on the label (and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if that’s what happens), you STILL wouldn’t find me stocking up on bargain supplements from Wal-Mart.  I’ve got higher standards than simply matching what’s on the label — and low-budget supplements from a big-box store just don’t meet those standards. Stick with quality — and if it comes from a place where the one and only selling point is “ALWAYS LOW PRICES,” it’s a safe bet it’s anything but.  Supplementing the “news” with truth, William Campbell Douglass II, MD”


There is a reason that these store-branded products cost less.  Obviously these big box retailers likely had these knock-off products manufactured either outside the US or in such quantity that they lost control of the quality of these products.  All in all there is no excuse and it is in the interest of consumer safety that this was uncovered.  This report was released in the New York Times on February 2nd.

From Vitamin Retailer:

“Among the attorney general’s findings, according to the article, was a popular store brand of ginseng pills at Walgreens that authorities said contained only powdered garlic and rice. At Walmart, authorities discovered that its ginkgo  biloba products contained only powered radish, houseplants and wheat, while three out of six herbal products at Target tested negative for the herbs listed on their labels. The agency also said they found pills with unlisted ingredients used as fillers at GNC.

Monday’s announcement marks the first time that a law enforcement agency has threatened the nation’s largest retail and drugstore chains with legal action for selling what it contends were deliberately misleading herbal supplements. The four retailers on Monday were issued cease-and-desist letters and the attorney general demanded that they each explain what procedures are used to verify the ingredients in their supplements.”

Trust is a big thing and consumers rely on honesty.  This will obviously make me think when I choose my next purchase.  This is especially true when it is something I will be swallowing.

Update April 7, 2015

GNC and Attorney General of New York reach an agreement on Supplement Testing Click Here.