Friday, November 1, 2013

A Hospital Faces Reality

It’s nice to see hospitals beginning to make more responsible decisions about the difference between real medicine and folk remedies.  In this case the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has removed dietary supplements from their pharmacy shelves.  If, after receiving educational information on supplements, parents still want to provide them to their children, they “must sign a hospital waiver stating that they agree to be responsible for providing the product.”

“The hospital said the action was being taken because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not routinely review the manufacturing of dietary supplements, and therefore cannot guarantee their safety and effectiveness.”  This is a fact that I have pointed out several times in the past (including June 22, 2012 and September 20, 2013).  CHOP goes on to explain:  “Because vitamins and dietary supplements are essentially unregulated, there is no sound information about adverse side effects, drug interactions, or even standard dosing for the vast majority of them.”

This lack of regulation must seem like a small problem to Americans who spend $20 billion every year on vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes and animal extracts including a long list of “natural” products.  The consistent advice from health experts has been that, except in unusual circumstances, it’s best to get the vitamins and minerals needed from a healthy diet rather than from multivitamins.  Otherwise most supplements lack evidence of effectiveness and must rely on endorsements from friends and celebrities with no guarantee of purity or safety.  (Ironically at a time citizens are urging the FDA to get involved with testing dog treats for safety, Congress still feels it proper to yield to pressure from the supplement manufacturers to leave them unregulated!)

Further illustrating the dangers are articles like this one from CNN about people dying or having to undergo liver transplants after taking a diet aid called OxyElite Pro.  They report further that the maker of this product once distributed OxyElite containing a substance called DMMA that the FDA determined to be a cause of “increased blood pressure, shortness of breath, chest tightening, cardiovascular problems and even heart attacks.”  Supplement companies, however, are not required to test for or warn of these side effects before selling their products.

Once again a little research and critical thinking tell us that supplements are at best a waste of money and at worst potentially fatal.  At a time when many hospitals offer and charge for the long-ago debunked practice of therapeutic touch, it’s refreshing to hear of at least one with the ethics to resist public pressure and do the right thing.

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