Nudgerang: Unintended Consequences of Warnings?

Boomerang_(PSF)The Food and Drug Administration yesterday issued a warning to consumers “not to use body building products marketed as containing steroids or steroid-like substances.”  The public health advisory also stated that a line of products from a specific manufacturer which “claim to contain steroid-like ingredients but in fact contain synthetic steroid substances, are unapproved new drugs because they are not generally recognized as safe and effective.”

Hmmm.  I had no idea that products containing steroids (synthetic or not) were currently available as supplements — and I’m betting I’m not alone.  If that’s the case, and there is latent interest in such products, then the warning itself might curry interest.  And enough interest might make things worse.

Google Trends offers a bit of insight into whether there might be something to this “sleeping dog” hypothesis.  Here’s what I found when I ran the search on the company cited by the FDA and one of the products in its line of offerings.

Searches don’t mean purchases, but the direction gives pause: Can warnings like this make the problem worse?  If so — and we don’t know that’s the case in this situation — what’s a good fix?

(Note: this entry originally appeared at

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