WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an urgent alert aimed toward pregnant women or women who might become pregnant to avoid dietary supplements containing the synthetic-based compound vinpocetine. WUSA 9 reported that the compound vinpocetine might appear in other forms on the product label as Vinca minor extract, or two forms of periwinkle extract. Vinpocetine may be found in dietary supplements in products claiming to boost weight loss, enhance memory and mental acuity, or increase energy. The FDA made its announcement on June 3, 2019.
The FDA stated the vinpocetine is but one ingredient in several dietary supplements that pregnant women or women of childbearing age should avoid. The FDA learned of the potential threat vinpocetine might cause to a safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth after reviewing a study conducted by the National Institute for Health (NIH). In its report, the NIH concluded that consumption of vinpocetine might contribute to causing a miscarriage or cause a baby to be born with dangerously low birth weight.
The NIH based its conclusion on studies in which researchers used animal specimens to test vinpocetine’s effects on the body. The researchers gave pregnant animals one dose of vinpocetine directly proportionate to a dose an adult woman might take. The animals showed an adverse effect, leading researchers to conclude that a pregnant woman who took vinpocetine could suffer the same adverse consequences even with one dose.
Vinpocetine is a prescription drug in some countries but not in the United States. The FDA warned consumers that the FDA does not test the components of dietary aids and have not determined if vinpocetine is safe for human consumption. As with all dietary supplements, the FDA cannot test the product until it is available for sale. By contrast, the FDA must approve all prescription drugs for safety and effectiveness before the drug may be sold. The FDA asked companies producing supplements containing vinpocetine to increase warning visibility on product labels.
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