- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: shark cartilage
Brand and Other Names: squalamine lactate, AE941, Neovastat, U995
Drug Class: Herbals
What is shark cartilage, and what is it used for?
Cartilage is a tough, flexible tissue that is found in many organs in humans, including joints, ribs, windpipe, ears and nose. Shark cartilage is the tissue that forms the shark skeleton. Shark cartilage used for medicinal purposes is the dried and powdered extract from shark cartilage, mostly from specific types of Pacific sharks. People take shark cartilage powder or capsules for treatment of cancer, arthritis, psoriasis, diabetic retinopathy, intestinal inflammation and wound healing, however, no scientific studies support any of the purported uses of shark cartilage.
Shark cartilage contains a substance known as squalamine lactate that is believed to prevent new blood vessel growth and starve tumors of nutrition. Shark cartilage is thought to reduce inflammation in psoriasis, and prevent breakdown of cartilage in bones by interfering with matrix metalloproteases, enzymes that break down cartilage.
Shark cartilage has been sold as a dietary supplement primarily based on the popular belief that sharks don’t get cancer, and consuming their cartilage can prevent cancer in humans, but it is now known that sharks do get cancer and research does not show any benefits from consuming shark cartilage in the treatment of cancer, or any other ailment.
- Do not take shark cartilage in high doses or for prolonged duration.
- Do not take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Do not administer shark cartilage to children or adolescents below the age of 18.
- Check with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement, including shark cartilage, particularly if you have any health conditions or if you are taking any regular medication.
- Seek medical help if you experience any side effects such as weakness, tiredness, dizziness, unusual thirst, or changes in mood.
- There has been at least one report of hepatitis from use of shark cartilage. Contact your physician if you experience symptoms of liver disease such as yellowing of skin and whites of the eye, stomach ache, persistent nausea, and dark urine.
- Shark cartilage may increase blood calcium levels. Avoid use if you have pre-existing high calcium levels, tendency for kidney stones or irregular heart rhythms.
- Shark cartilage may reduce blood glucose levels. Use with caution if you are diabetic and taking anti-diabetic medications.
- Shark cartilage may increase immune system activity, which may increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus erythematosus, and others.
What are the side effects of shark cartilage?
Common side effects of shark cartilage include:
- Stomach upset
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of skin or whites of the eye
- Extreme itching
- Extreme fatigue
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- High blood calcium (hypercalcemia) from chronic use
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:
- Serious heart symptoms include fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness;
- Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady;
- Severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, and feeling like you might pass out; or
- Serious eye symptoms include blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of shark cartilage?
There isn’t enough scientific information on what might be an appropriate dose of shark cartilage, follow manufacturer’s instructions.
- Commercial products suggest doses ranging from 500 mg-4.5 grams given orally in 2-6 divided doses daily
Shark cartilage overdose may irritate the gastrointestinal system and cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms. Chronic overdose may increase blood calcium levels and increase the activity of the immune system, worsening autoimmune diseases. Overdose may be treated with symptomatic and supportive therapy.
What drugs interact with shark cartilage?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Shark cartilage has no severe or serious interactions with other drugs.
- Shark cartilage has moderate interactions with at least 31 different drugs.
- Mild interactions of shark cartilage include:
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Do not take shark cartilage if you are pregnant or breastfeeding; there is no reliable information on the safety of shark cartilage use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Do not take any dietary supplement without first checking with your physician if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
What else should I know about shark cartilage?
- There is no scientific information on the safety and efficacy of shark cartilage.
- If you do take shark cartilage follow label instructions exactly. Natural products are not necessarily safe always and following suggested dosing is important.
- Dietary supplements often contain many ingredients. Check labels for the components in the shark cartilage product you choose.
- Shark cartilage is marketed as a dietary supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths, and labels may not always match contents. Exercise caution in choosing your product and buy only from a reputed manufacturer.
- Store shark cartilage products safely out of reach of children.
- In case of overdose, seek medical help or contact Poison Control.
Shark cartilage used for medicinal purposes is the dried and powdered extract from shark cartilage, mostly from specific types of Pacific sharks. People take shark cartilage powder or capsules for treatment of cancer, arthritis, psoriasis, diabetic retinopathy, intestinal inflammation and wound healing. Common side effects of shark cartilage include nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, pain in the upper right abdomen, diarrhea, constipation, bad taste in the mouth, dark urine, yellowing of skin or whites of the eye, extreme itching, extreme fatigue, weakness, low blood pressure (hypotension), and others. Do not take shark cartilage if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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