CME: Dietary Supplements & ED Visits

CME: Dietary Supplements & ED Visits

Herbal products, complementary nutritionals, and micronutrients are all considered to be dietary supplements. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act is a 1994 law that defined supplements as food rather than drugs. A consequence of this act is that manufacturers of these supplements are not required to prove that their products have benefits or demonstrate their safety. “Although these products cannot be marketed to treat or prevent disease, they are often taken to address symptoms or illnesses or to maintain or improve overall health,” says Andrew I. Geller, MD. The estimated number of supplement products has increased significantly over the past 2 decades. Recent reports show that about half of all adults in the United States have reported using at least one dietary supplement in the past month. Post-marketing reporting of adverse events from manufacturers of these supplements is required only for serious adverse events, and voluntary reporting may underestimate the adverse events associated with these products. There has been increasing public attention regarding post-marketing removal of some supplement products, which in turn has led to calls for changes in oversight.   Taking a Closer Look “Few clinical studies have examined the safety of dietary supplements that are still available on the market, and data are lacking to quantify the frequency of adverse events associated with dietary supplements in the U.S.,” says Dr. Geller. To address this issue, he and his colleagues had a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that aimed to estimate the number of ED visits for adverse events relating to dietary supplements. They also sought to identify the associated characteristics of patients,...