Unregulated Dietary Supplements Still Killing People

The New York Times recently reported on the growing evidence that unregulated dietary supplements are a significant cause of injury and death. According to research by a group of liver specialists, supplements now “account for nearly 20 percent of drug-related liver injuries that turn up in hospitals, up from 7 percent a decade ago.”

I have previously discussed the gross inadequacy of regulation of dietary supplements, and even the FDA recognizies that the purely voluntary system for quality control of these products is ineffective: “The F.D.A. estimates that 70 percent of dietary supplement companies are not following basic quality control standards that would help prevent adulteration of their products. Of about 55,000 supplements that are sold in the United States, only 170 — about 0.3 percent — have been studied closely enough to determine their common side effects, said Dr. Paul A. Offit, the chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an expert on dietary supplements.”

Despite the widespread and uninhibited marketing of dietary supplements as safe and beneficial, the reality is we know little about the risks and benefits of such products, and the current system guarantees we will have to tolerate a tremendous amount of unecessary suffering and death before we are able to identify particular products that do harm.




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7 Responses to Unregulated Dietary Supplements Still Killing People

  1. Pingback: The Harm Complementary and Alternative Medicine Can Do | The SkeptVet Blog

  2. v.t. says:

    Thank you, DSHEA /end sarcasm/

    Unfortunately, the desire to use such supplements for weight loss, body-building or stamina, etc is far stronger than accepting the facts of the harm they cause. No one wants to hear their favorite natural drug of choice could kill them, as long as they reap the benefits (real or perceived).

  3. Young CC Prof says:

    The most ironic part is all the folks who, upon presented with evidence that supplements are unregulated and frequently contaminated, the wrong strength, or just plain counterfeit, immediately begin screaming that it’s a conspiracy by Big Pharma to prevent people from getting access to natural cures.

    Um, no, in fact it’s a conspiracy by Big Supplement to make sure the FDA has almost no power over them. No power to force them to prove that their products are effective, are safe, or even that the ingredients listed on the bottle accurately describe what’s inside it. Really, when was the last time you heard about prescription drugs from a proper pharmacy that were counterfeit?

    Why are the conspiracy theorists unable to see the actual conspiracy?

  4. Pingback: Evidence Concerning Vitamin and Mineral Supplements- Safety and Efficacy | The SkeptVet Blog

  5. Ann says:

    Research says that herbal supplements affected liver especially from body builders.

  6. Amelia says:

    Very interesting to read this article. There is mounting evidence that Congress should revisit its ill-advised decision in 1994 to insulate pills and powders sold as ”dietary supplements” from Federal regulation. The latest warning appears in the New England Journal of Medicine, which on Thursday published six reports of people who had become ill after treating their ailments with remedies from health-food stores. Thanks for sharing excellent information.

  7. Amy says:

    Under current law, dietary supplements are considered neither food nor drugs and exist in an unregulated gray area. You can put supplements in a shake, stick them in a pill or add them to water without testing their safety. Thank you for the good write up.

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