The UTI Supplement Market Is Surging, But Antibiotics Are Still the Only Cure

It's the rules, and also, it's science.
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
A bunch of cranberries
Terryfic3D via Getty

Urinary tract infections sit precisely at the intersection of “things that happen all the time” and “things that are quite serious,” which makes the market for treating them at home (without going to and paying for a doctor appointment) extremely appealing to businesses wanting to make a quick buck. This is like, 80 percent of the reason why cranberries, which no one actually likes to eat, are still on the market (the other 20 percent is cranberry sauce, which is Good), and why your Instagram feed is probably riddled with ads for supplements like Uqora.


In a recent report for VICE, Libby Watson explored the sus vibes that radiate from Uqora, and how its status as a supplement allows the brand to make specious claims with little to no basis in science, specifically, that it will prevent UTIs. “Because Uqora’s products are dietary supplements and not drugs, these claims fall into a legal and ethical gray area: Bold claims like that are meant to be reserved for drugs that have been FDA-approved, which Uqora’s products haven’t,” Watson explained. Another supplement called SuperMannan got a nice callout on Tuesday morning from Science Based Medicine for hinging its dazzling promises of curing UTIs upon a study that included only nine women, most of whom were friends or family of the researchers (!!!).

And as has been well-documented by now, Big Cran likes to make similar promises and will spare no cost to that effect. Ocean Spray’s fingerprints are all over the existing wealth of cranberry research, and in 2017, the juice company went as far as to file a petition with the FDA seeking permission to claim that certain products prevent UTIs. (The FDA did a “wait…what” and now has until March 2020 to make a decision on whether this is allowed. Meanwhile, Ocean Spray has released these “+health Chewable Supplements,” which probably taste kinda good but the idea that they will cure or prevent an infection in your urinary tract is highly contested by science and medicine.)

A fun, chewable, OTC cure for UTIs would be truly fucking great, but unfortunately, the only way to cure an infection is with antibiotics, which you simply need a prescription to access. Doctors are the only people allowed to write legitimate prescriptions; going to the doctor is time-consuming, expensive, and annoying; and so it’s obvious why so many brands are stoked on the idea of disrupting…science?? And medicine?? By trying to come up with what would amount to a new, miracle cure for literally E. coli.

Chewing on some cranberry stuff or drinking a lot of juice might “work” if you merely have UTI symptoms (read: not an infection) that go away on their own; but a true infection, as of now, according to our government regulators, still requires a physician diagnosis and prescription drugs. This is irritating, but it’s better to wait in an office and pee in a cup than it is to slam (expensive) supplement powder, chew on berries, and swallow pills by the handful as your insides rot.

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