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Harmful effects of supplements can send you to the emergency department

October 15, 2015

About the Author

photo of Susan Farrell, MD

Susan Farrell, MD, Contributing Editor

Dr. Susan Farrell is the Director of the comprehensive clinical skills OSCE examination at Harvard Medical School, and worked as an educator in the Partners Healthcare Office for Graduate Medical Education, before taking her current position … See Full Bio
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Laura Jennings
October 27, 2015

I beg to differ with the first commenter, for Lamar Odom was a drug addict, which is a far cry from using supplements. Reviews of good natural supplements can be found at Some of the dietary supplements symptoms can be traced to the bad lifestyles of the users. If you drink and smoke on a daily basis, you’ll get very little help from supplements, neither will multivitamins do you any good.

Don’t get me wrong, the whole dietary supplement industry should be fully regulated and the lousy ones driven out of business. But then again, most Americans are of the opinion we need fewer govt regulations to keep us safe.

Keith Elder
October 24, 2015

Recent life threatening event with Lamar Odom is a great example for people who take supplements without proper research or doctor’s advice.

Marry Martin
October 24, 2015

Great Article!

Jacob Tyler
October 24, 2015

Basically, supplements are considered more food than medicine and regulated as such. They can’t be marketed for the treatment or prevention of disease (i.e. drug claims), but can make so-called “structure-function” claims (i.e., “boosts the immune system”). The problem is, what constitutes a “drug claim” compared to a “structure-function” claim remains fairly vague.

October 18, 2015

how many patients reached ER after taking prescribed med ? I guarantee much more than supplements ?

October 18, 2015

That’s why you should take only Nutrilite vitamins.

October 16, 2015

O can see your point of some supplements have side effects, there not 100% safe, but neither is bleach or Tylenol even if its fda approved. Its always best to do your own research based on your allergies and the side effects you find online either on health forum or by a personal doctor. I have tried many supplements and i prefer herbal supplements.

M. Kopper
October 16, 2015

I agree with most all of the replies above – and it IS unfair to warn people against all supplements lumped together. I heard on a morning news show the latest news that supplements are not needed; vitamin C is worthless and even vitamin D.

What about the AREDs for macular degeneration and other retinal and eye problems? What about grape seed extract which has been in trials to help cancer patients or Turmeric curcumin which can help with pain and inflammation? This story is a bunch of nonsense.

Big PHARMA strikes again. 🙁

Renee DuPont
October 16, 2015

Speaking from personal experience and the same physical complaints…an organic RAW FOOD diet is far more effective than 20 plus supplements.

Turmeric with black pepper, ginger, coconut oil, cayenne and an avocado, B12 and D everyday are a winning combination.

Linda G
October 16, 2015

this isnt fair to lump all supplements into this category, I take supplements all the time, and you know what a majority of your BIG pharm meds are based on herbs and spices so it is how you take them I would trust supplements faster than pharm meds

Bill Boone
October 16, 2015

This is a very narrow look at the issue. First, 23k is a very small number compared to the 730,000 visits caused by adverse drug effects from prescribed medicine (CDC website – stats for 2011). Second, 4 of the largest categories are for weight loss, energy, sexual performance and bodybuilding. Most of these are stimulants and if overused can cause adverse effects (racing heart beat as an example). I would argue that these are used less for general health and more as a crutch – take a pill to lose weight instead of better diet and exercise.

D Desmarais
October 16, 2015

I have been seeing a general internist, M.D. who also practices Ayurvedic medicine. He recently prescribed me roughly 20+ supplements to take to help with chronic issues I have been suffering with for many years; chronic pain, fatigue, fibromyalgia, H/A’s, PTSD, chronic depression, anxiety, and the list goes on. Am i setting myself up for more problems if I take all these supplements as prescribed?

Jay Wolfe
October 18, 2015

@D Desmarais: I would advise a healthy amount of skepticism and a great deal of research before you start shelling out cash for that many ‘supplements’, ESPECIALLY if they’re being sold to you by the doctor himself or through his office. My in-laws were seeing just such a practitioner for awhile who prescribed and sold them a rafter of goods and the only results were a nicely padded wallet for the doctor and very expensive urine.

Carl Anderson
October 16, 2015

To put this in a business context, would it be useful to give the ER visit numbers for doctor prescribed exorbitantly expensive pharmaceuticals? I would guess the numbers are many times higher as is the mortality and side effect rate.

Manuel santos velez
October 16, 2015

Unfortunately is a bigger businesses and the government given the acceptance

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