Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
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Aren't Drugs as Dangerous as Supplements?

Friday, 05 Feb 2010 08:51 AM


Question: When you were referring to your trip through the vitamin store, and you were amazed at the misinformation on supplements, and how their claims usually are not permitted under FDA regulations, did you think about all the drugs that the FDA recommends that end up killing people? Did you think about all the horrible side effects of the drugs that the FDA approves? Seems to me like that's a case of big bucks for the drug companies leading the blind.

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

I agree that the regulatory process is not perfect. Occasionally, prescription drug side effects, some very serious, escape observation until the drug has had widespread use. Witness the tragedies of thalidomide and numerous other medications no longer available. This is exactly where the FDA steps in to modify prescribing advice to physicians to protect all of us.

Far more "supplement" medications are removed from the shelves than the general public realizes, partly due to FDA intervention that proves dangerous contamination or additional forbidden components addition hidden as "herbal" extracts.

The FDA bashing is unfortunately largely done by those who are not in a position to see the devastation that inappropriate drug use can cause. I am an experienced emergency physician and am continually amazed at the huge numbers of supplements some people use instead of simply fortifying their diets in areas of deficiency.

In addition, I am also witness to both prescription and non-prescription drug toxicity, and may be the first line of recognition and treatment for unfortunate victims of the occasional falsely promoted toxic food supplement.

The over the counter supplements have no purity standards, are marketed as "foods," and often escape many of the quality and purity measures required of prescription drugs. Side effects due to toxicity or contamination may not be recognized until a supplement or drug has been in general use—sometimes for years—or until clusters of disease, disability or death are reported.

Given the choice, I will choose an FDA approved formulation for myself and my loved ones over one that has not obtained approval. Yes, this will be more expensive. But this is America, and you do have your freedom of choice, limited only by your comfort level with taking risks combined with the drug patent and basic safety laws.




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