Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Patient with Natural Supplements 3

In the last couple of posts, I recounted having to spend about 2 hours looking up all of the ingredients of all of the supplements a patient of mine was taking, at the prescription of her chiropractor.

This post is about my anger.

Why aren’t supplement ingredients on the label of the product?

How come most prescription products come with a sheet of paper the size of a tablecloth, folded 1024 times so it ends up the size of a stamp, completely covered with tiny print that is required bylaw to mention every rare adverse event that happened to subjects during a clinical trial?  Because it’s required.

If the product is effective as a drug, and is used as a drug, why aren’t there clinical trials? 

Why do I need to spend 2 hours looking this stuff up?

Why didn’t the other guy review with the patient all the potential side effects, the risks of interactions, the risks of hypotension and collapse, of bleeding spontaneously, of increased menstrual cramps, flushing, lactating, breast pain, odd body odor, stomach pain, gas pain, diarrhea, allergic reactions, rashes, itches?

Why is it that I have to reassure myself that the undocumented sourcing of slaughterhouse discards of adrenal and thymus glands and testicles from many animals of several species won’t require disclosure of the risk of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy—Mad Cow Disease?

Why should I have to worry about the products claiming to be better and natural sources of vitamins because they are derived from algae?  The fact that algae are being proposed to de-contaminate toxic heavy-metal superfund sites, because they so selectively accumulate this kind of poison, shouldn’t be a problem for people taking algae every day, right? 

If I prescribe a medication, and there’s a problem interaction with one of the supplements, who will rush to help the patient?  Who will answer the phone on the weekend, or at night?  Who will spend the time to figure it out?  Who will be blamed?

And it did, indeed, occur to me after hours of research into these products and their ingredients, that I looked up what was on the label.  There is no regulation requiring that what is on the label is exactly what is in the pill, or if it’s fresh, or if it’s not contaminated, infected, or accurate. 

Are you really, really sure you want your kids taking this stuff?  Is it really better than whatever you consider a drug?  Did the person at the health food store tell you about all the side effects and interactions?  Did that nice woman in your mom’s group?