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This profile was last updated on 12/30/14  and contains information from public web pages and contributions from the ZoomInfo community.

Dr. Pieter A. Cohen

Wrong Dr. Pieter A. Cohen?

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Phone: (617) ***-****  HQ Phone
Email: c***@***.edu
Harvard Medical School
1545 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge , Massachusetts 02138
United States

Company Description: Harvard Medical School has more than 7,500 full-time faculty working in 11 academic departments located at the School's Boston campus or in one of 47 hospital-based...   more

Employment History


  • MD
  • medical degree
    Yale School of Medicine
200 Total References
Web References
"The barrage of advertising leads us ..., 30 Dec 2014 [cached]
"The barrage of advertising leads us to think there's a magic way to melt away 10 pounds -- even when we have no evidence that supplements work," Dr. Pieter Cohen, a physician at Harvard Medical School who studies supplements, said in a Consumer Reports news release.
"The labels on weight loss supplements look like those on over-the-counter medications, and the supplement facts are organized like nutrition facts labels," he added. "There's no way for consumers to tell the difference."
So it's perhaps not surprising that the new survey of nearly 3,000 Americans found that about 20 percent of respondents were misinformed, believing, erroneously, that the U.S Food and Drug Administration guarantees the safety and effectiveness of weight-loss supplements.
All of that scientific-looking labeling "gives you the sense the products are being scrutinized by the FDA," Cohen said, even though the agency plays no such role when it comes to supplements.
Cohen said, "of all dietary supplements, the ones for weight loss seem to cause the most harm -- sometimes liver failure and even death."
The survey showed that more than one-third of those taking weight-loss supplements were also taking a prescription medication for another condition. Many people taking weight-loss supplements don't inform their doctor, and that could raise the risk for drug-drug interactions and potentially serious complications.
"These products can interact with prescription medications, but consumers often feel that supplements are different from prescription drugs, and doctors don't ask about them," said Cohen.
Complicating matters, weight-loss products may contain drugs that have been banned by the FDA. In another recent study, the researchers found that 27 supplements recalled by the agency were still being sold. Of those products, two-thirds being sold for weight loss contained some type of banned ingredient.
In the end, "there's no way to know what's in the bottle," Cohen said. "You're at the mercy of the manufacturer."
"If you've spent money on something you think will help, you'll probably pay more attention to what you're eating," explained Cohen.
If you ingest these drugs ..., 27 Oct 2014 [cached]
If you ingest these drugs unintentionally, you could face a few serious risks, says Pieter Cohen, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard University and an internal medicine doctor at the Cambridge Health Alliance.
For one, sibutramine, a weight-loss drug, isn't supposed to be available in this country because of its link to heart attacks and strokes, Cohen says. The other drugs may seem safer, but only when taken under a doctor's supervision. These pharmaceuticals could cause dangerous drug interactions with medications you already take, or they might exacerbate underlying conditions. For instance, men with certain heart problems should not take Viagra, he says.
Dosing is another concern. Prescription drugs are manufactured in precise concentrations so that you can always ensure a safe dose. In supplements, the drug concentrations vary widely. "So in one batch of supplements, it might be in a dose higher than prescriptions; in the next batch it might be lower," says Cohen. High doses could pose higher risks.
MORE:The Pills That Many Doctors Won't Recommend Anymore
The big question researchers can't answer: How did these supplements end up on store shelves? "These are clearly the most hazardous type of supplements out there, and the ones that the FDA is working the hardest to try to remove," says Cohen. "So the fact that the exact same supplement that the FDA has issued a recall about reappears months or years later with drugs is just mind-boggling."
It's possible that some of the supplements in the study were manufactured before the recall and weren't properly removed from the market, says Cohen. However, it's also quite possible-and likely, in his opinion-that the companies kept on making drug-tainted supplements after the recall.
If you take any supplements, check this list for the products found to contain pharmaceuticals. Avoid anything on this list, even if you can still find it in stores, says Cohen. "The FDA's job is to remove dangerous supplements from the marketplace, and that's not happening as you can see here," says Cohen. The FDA should re-test previously recalled supplements to make sure the companies take out the offending ingredients, he says.
What's more, don't assume that just because something hasn't been recalled, it's automatically safe. Before you pop any supplement, read the label closely. Some supplement ingredients have been studied extensively, and the research suggests that they are safe and possibly beneficial. But be wary of new or strange ingredients, especially in workout, weight-loss, or sex supplements: "It's whenever you start seeing multiple different herbal ingredients listed on the label-these proprietary blends, these cocktails of herbs-that you're going to run into problems," says Cohen.
CHA Study: Researchers Find Ingredients in Contaminated Dietary Supplements to Be Addictive, 5 April 2010 [cached]
In their study, authors Pieter Cohen, MD, and Benjamin Smith of Harvard Medical School describe a woman who became dependent on the Brazilian diet pills and was unable to stop, despite increasing harm.
"Neither consumers nor physicians can distinguish between safe and dangerous supplements," said Dr. Cohen, an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He has conducted research into the composition of the adulterated pills and, as a General Internist at Cambridge Health Alliance, has seen the high prevalence of use of amphetamine-based diet pills among his patients.
The addictive potential of weight loss pills sold as dietary supplements further strengthens calls for reform of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). DSHEA does not require that manufactures prove that supplements are safe before selling them in the U.S. "Our finding that the Brazilian diet pills can be addictive provides further evidence that regulatory reform is necessary to ensure the safety of supplements sold in the U.S.," Dr. Cohen concluded.
"Dependence on the Brazilian Diet Pill: a Case Report" published by the American Journal on Addictions. E-publication ahead of print. Authors: Benjamin R. Smith and Pieter A. Cohen.
Manufacturers are putting profit ahead of ..., 22 Oct 2014 [cached]
Manufacturers are putting profit ahead of consumer health, but lax oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is contributing to the problem, said lead author Dr. Pieter Cohen, an internist and researcher at Cambridge Health Alliance, a Boston-area health care system.
The tested supplements were recalled by manufacturers after FDA raised concerns about drugs in their products. This type of recall is usually voluntary, involving products that could potentially cause serious health problems and even death. The FDA's role includes assessing whether recalls successfully remove potentially unsafe products from the market.
"There should be significant legal and financial consequences for manufacturers who the FDA finds to be continuing to sell these spiked supplements," Cohen said.
The new findings are concerning because ..., 4 Oct 2013 [cached]
The new findings are concerning because they suggest that, even when the FDA tests supplements and discovers prohibited ingredients, the agency doesn't always remove these dangerous products, said Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance in Boston.
"What's the point of identifying products [with prohibited drugs] if you can't take them off the marketplace? said Cohen, who was not involved in the new study.
The recalls described in the new study are voluntary, meaning the FDA asked the manufacturer to recall the product but did not mandate it. It's not clear why 110 products were found to contain drugs but were not recalled, Cohen said.
One possibility, Cohen said, is that the FDA couldn't get in touch with the manufacturer. Indeed, a recent investigation by the Office of the Inspector General found that the FDA did not have accurate contact information for 20 percent of the supplement manufacturers. It's also possible the FDA contacted the manufacturer, but the manufacturer refused to comply, Cohen said.
"The consumer is flying blind when it comes to purchasing supplements," Cohen said. Until manufacturers follow the law - and the FDA enforces it - "these huge categories of supplements need to be completely avoided," he said.
A 2011 study by Cohen and his colleagues found that even supplements that are recalled can still be bought by consumers. The study found that the weight-loss supplement Pai You Guo, which was recalled in 2009 because it contained a banned drug, could still be bought at retail stores.
Cohen said his lab recently tested a sexual-enhancement drug and found it contained pharmaceuticals. Even though the lab alerted the FDA about the supplement - called Sex Plus - in December 2012, the FDA has yet to warn consumers about it, Cohen said.
The dietary supplements that are tested and recalled by the FDA are likely just "the tip of the iceberg," in terms of the percentage of supplements that contain prohibited drugs, Cohen said.
Consumers who want to buy supplements should stick with vitamins and minerals, or single-ingredient supplements, Cohen said. They should look for supplements that have been certified by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention or NSF International, which can provide reassurance that the products contain the proper dosage of ingredients and that they don't contain illegal ingredients, Cohen said.
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