People who are diagnosed with chronic pain or are sickened by their medications may be getting their pills from a source that contains chemicals that can cause the disease, according to a new study.
Researchers say the discovery could help people understand the risks of taking these chemicals.
“It’s like finding a needle in a haystack, there’s no way you could miss the needle,” said Dr. Robert Wolk, an assistant professor of dermatology and ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and a co-author of the new study published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about the toxicity of acidic salts, but it’s really important to understand the potential for this substance to actually be safe.”
The study included nearly 5,000 people in four countries and found that nearly all of the people tested were taking a drug that had been linked to cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.
In other cases, the drug was a supplement that had already been tested.
The researchers used a combination of DNA tests, CT scans and a computer algorithm to identify the drugs and what they were made of.
The chemicals found in the study were a form of calcium phosphate, a form used in cosmetics and the toothpaste industry.
Calcium phosphate is known to cause heart disease, and some people have been known to be allergic to it.
It is also a major component of the cathinone and carbaryl salts found in bath salts, which are the active ingredients in some prescription painkillers.
Calcified calcium phosphate is the main ingredient in the salt that was used in the new findings.
“We’re very excited to find that people who are taking calcium phosphate supplements are having worse outcomes,” said lead author Dr. Thomas Osterholm, a dermatologist and professor at the Harvard Medical School.
“That’s really exciting.”
Osterholm said he is still investigating whether the chemicals in the supplements can cause cancer.
“In general, we don’t really have enough data on the effect of these products on human health,” he said.
“But the fact that the acidic salt products are toxic does raise concerns that there might be something else going on.”
The researchers are still testing whether the results are the result of a single drug, a combination or both.
“We are hoping to get to a point where we can make more of an informed decision about the risks and benefits,” Osterholms said.