The Food and Drug Administration reports that there are more than 54,000 supplements available in stores and on the Internet. These alternative medicines are not regulated in the same way that conventional drugs are. The lack of regulation can lead to poor quality and even dangerous substances hitting shelves and causing harm to consumers. A new book discussing the alternative medicine industry is being released this week. It covers a number of concerns about the practitioners and the practices involved in non-traditional medicine. As with any product, consumers should be made aware of the potential harm they could suffer by using supplements or other forms of unconventional health care.
The author of the book is the chief of infectious disease at Children’s Hospital. He suggests several reasons why useless or even harmful treatments may gain traction with American consumers. He cites a growing belief among Americans that anything natural is safe. This allows supplement companies to package herbal remedies that have no beneficial purpose, but can cause people to ignore conventional therapies that could cure them. He also cites a distrust of governmental regulation. The FDA has little authority over which supplements are sold, but it can act after a substance harms those who take it.
The supplement industry has seen a number of dangerous substances hit the market. In some cases, those substances are drugs that have been pulled from conventional medicines because they were proven harmful. In other cases, harmful substances are introduced accidentally or through the lack of proper safety standards at the offending manufacturer’s facilities.
The established health care industry has many faults. Patients are often injured or harmed through negligent care. A person considering any treatment would be wise to safeguard his or her own health by asking questions and learning as much as possible about a suggested course of action. The answer to these concerns, however, is not to blindly trust an alternative remedy from an industry with even less oversight. So-called “natural” remedies and other forms of alternative medicine are not necessarily safe. It is still important to ask questions and take every step to protect your own safety before using a product.
Source: USA Today, “Book raises alarms about alternative medicine,” by Liz Szabo, 18 June 2013