March 29, 2024

UK healthtech Numan recalls supplements that contained restricted ingredients

It’s the latest in a series of incidents that’s seen online healthcare providers come under scrutiny in recent times

UK-based healthtech startup Numan has recalled supplements from customers containing restricted ingredients.

The company sent out emails this week informing customers that its vitamin D supplements contained Propylparaben and Methylparaben, which are restricted for use in food (including supplements) in the EU and UK. Numan stopped selling the supplement in early March this year.

Numan is an online healthcare provider that sells and prescribes supplements and medication for conditions such as erectile dysfunction, hair loss and weight loss — including ever-popular weight loss jabs. 


“During an independent audit led by Numan to review the ingredients and labelling of all Numan products, we discovered that these ingredients are restricted for use in food products such as supplements,” says founder and CEO Sokratis Papafloratos. “The affected product, a Vitamin D spray supplement, that was purchased from a third party supplier, was immediately removed from sale.”

Numan was founded in 2018 and says it has since served 500k customers. Numan declined to comment on the number of customers who bought the vitamin D supplement before sales were halted.

It’s the latest in a string of incidents that’s seen online pharmacies and digital health companies come under scrutiny in recent times. 

Restricted ingredients

Numan is one of several European startups that have emerged in recent years selling supplements and medication online. 

One of the best-funded European startups in the space, it’s raised $72.2m, according to Dealroom, most recently in a £40m ($50m) debt and equity round in February 2022. 

Numan told Sifted that the use of restricted ingredients in its vitamin D supplements was caused by an “error in the supply chain by a manufacturing partner”.

“The ingredients in question, E216 and E218 [Propylparaben and Methylparaben], are preservatives commonly used and approved for use in liquid medicinal products,” said Papafloratos. “They are safely consumed by millions of adults and children every year, in medicines like Calpol, Gaviscon and many others.”

But propylparaben and methylparaben are restricted for use in food products in Europe and the UK. According to EU law documents, propylparaben has been shown to have effects on sex hormones and the male reproductive organs in juvenile rats. 

Numan has “taken steps to reformulate both products with an alternative manufacturing supply chain partner”, Papafloratos told Sifted.

“Serious concerns”

This is not the first time that an online healthcare provider has been in breach of regulation. Last October, UK healthtech Manual was still selling weight loss drug Ozempic beyond a UK government deadline to stop doing so, following shortages of the drug. 


The rise of online vendors of supplements and medicines has also led to growing patient safety concerns. 

Earlier this year, a BBC investigation found 20 online pharmacies selling restricted drugs without checks like GP approval. 

Duncan Rudkin, CEO of the UK pharmacy regulator the General Pharmaceutical Council, said in a statement that the investigation “raises very serious concerns”.

As weight loss jabs have risen in popularity over the past year, so too have experts' concerns that the drugs are being made too easily available. 

“Online prescribing is inherently more risky — you may not know the patient over a period of time, have access to the full medical notes and be aware of other important issues that could affect prescribing,” doctor and broadcaster Margaret McCartney told Sifted. 

Kai Nicol-Schwarz

Kai Nicol-Schwarz is a reporter at Sifted. He covers UK tech and healthtech, and can be found on X and LinkedIn