Don’t Buy Supplements From Amazon (Or eBay)

Longevity 120 is a community-supported website. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through our links. Learn more.

The hype surrounding supplements is exceptionally baffling—a continuous race in research and development of new nootropics that can biohack our bodies. Now, there are pills for everything, from boosting your immune system to skyrocketing your sex drive. All is off-the-counter and within close reach. 

It is only a few clicks away. You start with a simple search word, followed by a confident tick on a sponsored listing, then buying with-one-click, and here you go, an Amazon box is at your door the next day. Yet before you wash down that pill, take a moment and think again.

One might think the product appears to be branded; it also has some hundred reviews; your mind tells you that Amazon wouldn't just let criminals sell fake capsules on its platform. Well, they do. They know about it. They warn their customers of it, and they are not able to stop it. 

You might be in danger buying supplements on Amazon or eBay, and here are some reasons and advice to consider when buying supplements online

Amazon Can't Fully Control Fake Supplements

We started our investigation from Amazon Seller Central, where Amazon sets its compliance checklist for supplement sellers. There are two worrying things you can notice there: First, there is no requirement for verification or certification of retailers. There is a feeble rule that the supplements must be new and sealed in the original packaging, which is nothing Amazon can manually discover or trace. That means that any seller with just a sealing machine and serial numbers can claim that their fake, stolen, or expired supplements are from a legitimate manufacturer, even if they have actually produced or packaged them in some illicit facilities on the other side of the world. 

The other worrying thing is that Amazon requires no single evidence of the benefits of listed supplements or clearance from any health authorities on the product's safety. That means that any seller can list any “new” supplement on Amazon claiming its safety and health benefits without any prerequisites or verification from any third party. Directly from literally any manufacturer's facility into the gut of Amazon's loyal customers. Only after hundreds of customers have bought a harmful product and reported it to the FDA to investigate, Amazon might act and prohibit that supplement.

Wired's widespread incident gives one example of how the distribution of a fake supplement on Amazon is something the platform cannot prevent. The incident shows an example of a bogus seller who managed to sell forged Align supplements on Amazon. Customers received an email from Amazon warning them not to use and dump their purchases of the supplement that didn't happen to come from P&G, the real manufacturer.  

However, the court appeal of 2019 can hold Amazon liable for third-party seller products; the company is still fighting back these law cases and has no strict policy yet to prevent these incidents from happening again.

How To Avoid Fake Supplements? 

Avoid third-party sellers; it does not matter in that case if it was on Amazon, eBay, or a retail store. Buy only from a verified manufacturer or a licensed supplier. Reliable manufacturers will certainly not sell their supplements via unlicensed sellers. 

FDA Warns Consumers Buying Supplements On Amazon

The FDA has issued multiple warnings over the last decade to discourage people from purchasing medications or dietary supplements online from marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. In December 2020, the FDA issued a new alert warning from about 50 different male enhancement and weight loss products on Amazon and eBay containing hidden hazardous ingredients.

The investigations found these products to contain undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients, including sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil, sibutramine, desmethylsibutramine, phenolphthalein, and fluoxetine. Most of these products were listed as an “Amazon Choice” or “Best Sellers.” 

Which Certification To Look For When Buying Supplements? 

However, the FDA doesn't approve dietary supplements; they inspect manufacturing facilities and approve them for pharmaceutical products' GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices). The FDA's inspection covers the manufacturing process from raw material verification to testing and labeling. 

Furthermore, credible manufacturers seek third-party certifications. When checking the legitimacy of a manufacturer and their products, look for these kinds of certifications such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories) certifications, ISO 22716 (internationally recognized cosmetics GMP), Quality Assurance International (QAI) certification, or similar prevalent and trustworthy certification bodies.  

Supplement Reviews Could Be Fake  

Reviews play a crucial role in online shopping. It is just a basic instinct to hesitate while buying products from random retailers on Amazon. However tempting the price could be, we seek solid validations when it comes to expensive or health-related products. Reviews on Amazon products devise a trusting impression, but how much can you really trust reviews? 

Retailers know well how reviews influence buying decisions. Those who sell fraudulent supplements will use reviews to compensate for their shortage of a trusted brand, third-party certification, or actual verification; they buy positive reviews. 

The BBC reported about websites specialized in selling Amazon reviews. It may cost only £620 to get over 50 fake positive reviews in bulk. A small investment would be enough to give the next buyers the trusting impression they need to click and buy. Honest negative reviews might appear too late after thousands of supplements are already sold and used. The listing might then get removed by Amazon, yet the cycle will only start all over again. 

How To Find Authentic Testimonials For Supplements? 

If you are looking for recommendations, ask specialists, doctors, and nutritional experts about the ingredients and how good they are for you. When you are looking for personal testimonials, try social media. 

Search for personal reviews on the company's page or the product page on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. Read the reviews thoroughly and investigate if these reviews come from real people with normal accounts. 

Don't Buy Supplements From Amazon: The Bottom Line

Consumers are in danger of buying and using stolen, expired, or completely useless and harmful supplements. The golden rules of buying supplements online can be summed in these points: 

  1. Find reliable brands, manufacturers, and suppliers with trustworthy certifications and reputations.
  2. Avoid buying from third parties. 
  3. Don't trust random retailers on Amazon or eBay. 
  4. Take your time and do your own research. Investigate reviews, read ingredients lists, and always get an expert opinion. 

Al Feky