Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements send 23,000 people to EDs each year, study reveals

ABC World News (10/14, story 14, 0:25, Muir, 5.84M) reported that a study published Oct. 15 in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that some “23,000 people” visit hospital emergency departments each year and “more than 2,100” are hospitalized due because of “dietary supplements.”

On the CBS Evening News (10/14, story 10, 1:55, Pelley, 5.08M), chief medical correspondent Jon LaPook, MD, explained that because dietary supplements “products don’t need FDA approval, the CDC says it’s important to monitor their safety.” The study’s lead author, Andrew Geller, MD, of the CDC, was shown saying, “Some dietary supplements may have benefits, but there are risks and we encourage patients to tell their physicians that they’re taking dietary supplements and which ones.” Notably, “weight loss and energy products accounted for about 50 percent of” ED “visits in patients five to 34,” who commonly report “cardiac, chest pain, palpitations, and elevated heart rate.”

USA Today (10/15, Szabo) reports that the actual number of ED “visits caused by dietary supplements…could be much larger than the study’s estimates because many patients don’t mention their supplement use when visiting” their physician.

The New York Times (10/15, O’Connor) reports that for the study, investigators from the CDC and the FDA “tracked” ED “visits at a large network of hospitals around the country over a 10-year period and then analyzed those in which a dietary supplement was implicated.” What still remains “unclear,” however, is “how many, if any, of these cases are fatal because the study tracked hospital visits, not” fatalities caused by supplements.