Richard Gardiner, MD
Psychiatrist in private practice in Potter Valley, CA
Dr. Gardiner has disclosed that he has no relevant financial or other interests in any commercial companies pertaining to this educational activity.
“It’s rare that my patients don’t at some point or another try an over-the-counter sleep aid, anxiety preparation, or antidepressant supplement,” says TCPR board member Richard Gardiner, MD, who practices psychiatry in Mendocino County, California. While supplements may be helpful—we covered this topic in TCPR’s November/December 2016 issue—the FDA does not test them for purity or efficacy. For this reason, Gardiner often steers patients to ConsumerLab.com (CL).
CL was started by physician Tod Cooperman in 1999 along with FDA scientist Dr. William Obermeyer. The company’s mission is “to identify the best-quality health and nutritional products through independent testing.” CL purchases health products from retail stores and submits them to third-party laboratories. The goal is to compare different branded versions of a product, then report which ones passed—and which ones failed—the company’s quality tests. To date, CL has tested more than 4,400 products, including everything from black cohosh to valerian. In its report on valerian, for instance, it points out that two of the products tested contained lead, and that the amount of active ingredient in the supplements varied by more than 7-fold. Similar to Consumer Reports, CL publishes tables reviewing the major brands side by side, comparing the accuracy of the labels as well as relative cost.
Dr. Gardiner recommends the site to patients to “try to stop them from hurting themselves with mislabeled products or wasting their money” and to help determine whether a supplement might interfere with a medication he is prescribing. “If someone’s taking valerian and I’m giving them a sleeping pill and they’re now sleeping all day, is it because they are overdosing?” he asks as an example. The information on the site helps him and his patients find out.
A 12-month subscription to CL costs $39; a 24-month subscription costs $64. You can also sign up for a free one-day trial to read some sample reviews.