What distinguishes a dietary supplement from a drug?

Cheryl Taylor
Oncology Nursing

Drugs are FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved. Many dietary supplements are not. It is important to read all drug information carefully and ask your pharmacist questions, as needed.

According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, dietary supplements are products taken by mouth and intended to supplement the diet. Vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, enzymes, and organ tissues are examples of ingredients in dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are classified under "foods" and do not need Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Drugs are substances not classified as food and designed to affect body structure or function. They are used for diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. Drug manufacturers must prove that their drugs are safe and effective for their intended use before gaining FDA approval.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.