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Vinpocetine Dietary Supplements May Cause Miscarriages or Harm Unborn Children, FDA Warns

Women of child-bearing age should avoid taking vinpocetine-based dietary supplements, due to a risk that it may increase the risk of a miscarriage or harm to the unborn child, according to new warnings issued by federal drug regulators.

The FDA issued a safety warning June 3, indicating vinpocetine could interfere with fetal development. The warning follows the findings of a recent report by the National Institute of Health’s National Toxicology Program, which linked vinpocetine consumption with negative reproductive side effects.

The vinopecetine supplement warning calls is directed to all women of child-bearing age, calling for manufacturers that market supplements containing vinpocetine to ensure their product labels contain safety warnings alerting consumers who are pregnant or would become pregnant against using the supplement.

Vinpocetine is a common ingredient found in dietary supplements, which does not pose a threat to most people, the FDA warning indicates. However, pregnant women and women of child bearing age can experience side effects from the supplement. In some other countries vinpocetine is regulated as a prescription drug, but not in the United States.

It is a synthetic compound used in some products and marketed as a dietary supplemen, commonly called “vinca minor extract,” “lesser periwinkle extract,” or “common periwinkle extract” on dietary supplement labels.

Companies market the product as a means to enhance memory, focus, or mental acuity. It is also often marketed as a product that can increase energy or aid with weight loss.

When vinpocetine is sold as a dietary supplement, the products have not been reviewed by the FDA for safety and effectiveness. Dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way prescription drugs are regulated, with the FDA only able to step in if they cause or may cause a public health problem.

The FDA indicates animal studies conclude use during pregnancy decrease fetal weight and increase the chances of miscarriage. These findings likely extend to humans.

In the 1990s, the FDA received premarket safety submissions for vinpocetine. However, in recent years the availability of vinpocetine on the market has grown.

The dietary supplement industry has boomed in recent decades. Sales for dietary supplements increased ten-fold over the past 25 years and more than half of all Americans take at least one supplement on a regular basis. Because of the widespread use of supplements it is key to ensure the supplements consumers take are safe for them to use.

In April, the FDA launched the Dietary Supplement Ingredient Advisory List to alert the public when ingredients in supplements are considered unlawfully marketed or unsafe.

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