Supplement Industry Targeted, But Scare Tactics Backfiring

• Smart consumers know Big Pharma’s drugs kill over 100,000 every year.

By James Spounias —

Rahm Emanuel’s oft-quoted phrase, “You never want a serious crisis go to waste,” must have been forefront on the minds of news media propagandists the third week of October. This came as the media blasted dietary supplements in a manner that was surprising even considering the usual cynical establishment media skulduggery.

After basketball player and Kardashian reality show “star” Lamar Odom suffered a near fatal heart attack, media pundits quickly attached to that story a new study indicating that every year “dietary supplements” send 23,000 people to the emergency room.

Headlines and reporting stated that Odom took a dietary supplement referred to as “herbal Viagra” and that a new study warns that thousands of people are sent to the emergency room per year due to “dietary supplements.”

Both narratives are in need of correction.


First, 35-year-old Odom suffered a near-fatal heart attack while at a legal Nevada brothel, where he spent $75,000 for a weekend package known as “girlfriend experience.” Odom was said to have had cocaine and possibly other drugs in his system and had a history of drug use. He was also reportedly taking dangerous energy and sexual enhancement products that are sold over the counter in convenience and grocery stores.

That said, there is a problem with “herbal Viagra” products because many such sexual enhancement supplements are spiked with actual pharmaceutical copies of Viagra and other drugs, such as Cialis. However, “spiking” is adulteration, which can certainly cause negative health effects, and not a problem with actual herbal or dietary supplements, per se. Spiking with prescription drugs and copies is well known to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has warned against specific products for years.

Second, the study released on October 15, 2015, “Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Events Related to Dietary Supplements,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine, alleges that 23,000 people are sent to emergency rooms every year as a result of dietary supplements. But this is nothing more than a scare tactic.

What of it?

It is estimated that about 150 million Americans take some form of dietary supplements daily. So is it really a headline screamer that .015% of supplement users go to the ER annually due to a bad reaction to a dietary supplement? Many health advocates don’t accept the 23,000 figure, but even if the number is accurate, that figure reveals supplements are much safer than is generally known.

The Alliance for Natural Health USA (ANH-USA) calls balderdash on the study, noting that more than “20% of the cases studied were the result of children swallowing pills; and 40% of cases involving those 65 and older were caused by choking. Others involve heart palpitations from taking stimulant-laden diet pills and energy drinks, as well as sexual enhancement pills.”

ANH-USA adds that “only 3,249 supplement-related adverse event reports were submitted, either from doctors or hospitals, to the FDA in 2012—a far cry from the 23,000 being claimed in the study. Part of the gross discrepancy in the numbers is likely due to the fact that eye drops, ear drops, and other over-the-counter products that are not dietary supplements were apparently included by the researchers. Why they chose to do this, they will have to explain.”

ANH-USA states that the study “also omits important details on the adverse events counted. For instance, it does not report which specific products caused the adverse events. This is important because many adverse reactions could be the result of a handful of ‘adulterated’ (illegal) products. The FDA already has the authority to remove adulterated products from the market. Supplements are further regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and must also follow stringent good manufacturing practices to ensure that products are safe.”

Could this study and media hype about Odom be a timely way to deflect from the growing awareness of the dangers of regular medical practice? It’s worth mentioning that prescription drugs, when properly prescribed, cause about 1.9 million hospitalizations and 128,000 hospital deaths each year. Deaths outside hospitals caused by prescription drugs would make the number much higher, which begs the question, why not focus on the prescription industry?

The answer is obvious: Natural substances cannot be patented, and even though the dietary supplement industry as a whole has reached impressive gains in the marketplace, patented “medicines” dwarf the burgeoning industry. The dietary supplement industry does have problems. Unaccountable supply chains largely from China and chicanery among a few bad actors do pose a problem. But even still, the media hype for over regulating the industry falls flat when one considers the extremely good safety record of supplements, given the high number of users.

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James Spounias is the president of Carotec Inc., originally founded by renowned radio show host and alternative health expert Tom Valentine and his wife, Carole. To receive a free issue of Carotec Health Report—a monthly newsletter loaded with well-researched and reliable alternative health information—please write Carotec, P.O. Box 9919, Naples, FL 34101 or call 1-800-522-4279. Also included will be a list of the high-quality health supplements Carotec recommends.

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