How Supplement Drug Manufacturers Skirt the FDA Ban on Prohormones

Many consumers—most of whom are male—find themselves tempted by dietary supplements that claim to help build stronger muscle and burn more fat. And as part of that path, many consumers have turned to supplements called “prohormones.”  Many consumers believe that these supplements are healthier than illegal steroids and carry fewer risks that steroid compounds.  But this belief is unfounded, and despite being banned by the government in 2004, prohormones are still in the market posing health risks to consumers.

The Ban Against Prohormones

The use of supplements under the umbrella of “prohormones” came into the public’s awareness back in 1998, when pro baseball player Mark McGuire was found to be using prohormone supplements to aid his athletic performance.  

In 2004, Congress passed the Anabolic Steroid Control Act, which made it illegal for supplements to contain anabolic steroids or prohormones.  In support of the ban, the government pointed to studies that showed prohormones can lead to health risks, including damage to your endocrine system.

They also have many of the same negative side effects as steroids, including impaired production of natural testosterone and liver damage.  Other side effects can include:

  • severe acne
  • hair loss
  • development of feminine characteristics
  • stunted growth
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure, and
  • male infertility.  

Leading brands of illegal prohormones include:

  • “Tren” or “finabolan” – a prohormone that overstimulates the production of the testosterone hormone and can result in aggressiveness, mood swings and weight gain.
  • “Havoc” or “Thioderon” – a prohormone developed by the Japanese that can cause liver toxicity, high cholesterol and cardiovascular issues.
  • “Spawn” or “Trenabol” and “Epistane” – This combination of two powerful prohormones can have toxic properties when it’s metabolized by the liver, including damage to the endocrine system.  

Manufacturers of Prohormones are Skirting the Regulations.

Despite the ban against prohormones, many manufacturers and distributors have found loopholes in the regulations.  For example, the 2004 Act only bans certain prohormones from the market, while others slipped through the cracks because they did not contain the list of specific prohormone ingredients on the ban.  Instead, they include other compounds which are similarly harmful to health, but within loopholes of the government’s legal ban.  

The Leading Loophole: DHEA.

One major prohormone that has skirted the government’s ban is called DHEA.  It’s touted as the “mother of all hormones,” because it eventually converts to a steroid after being consumed.  But it’s technically legal because it was the only “prohormone” left off the list of substances specifically included in the 2004 Act banning prohormones.  

DHEA is banned from many professional sports leagues, including the Olympics, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), The National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).  However, it is permitted by Major League Baseball.  For regular consumers, it is widely available over the internet and even in health food chain stores.  

And although advocates of DHEA say that the supplement can aid performance, there have only been limited studies of its performance and side effects.  None of its promoted benefits, including slowed aging and leaner muscles, have been proven conclusively.  

Although DHEA is made naturally by the human body, it is also being made artificially in labs from chemicals.  Potential side effects of DHEA can include diabetes, liver problems, high cholesterol, depression, and mood disorders.