23,000 Emergency Room Visits Yearly Attributed to Dietary Supplements

New England Journal of Medicine- Surveillance data from 63 emergency departments in the U.S. was examined from 2004 to 2013. Surveyors aimed to search adverse effects and visits due to dietary supplements, as national data is currently limited. Based on findings from this survey it was estimated that roughly 23,000 emergency room visits yearly could be attributed to adverse effects from “dietary supplements.” Although this number does seem high, roughly 30 times more visits are seen due to prescription medications. The visits for supplements concerns were more commonly seen in younger populations and those for pharmaceutical complaints were more seen in older adults.

The visits due to “dietary supplements” were for ailments such as allergic reactions, nausea and vomiting, and heart troubles among others. Over 1/4th of these visits were in individuals ages 20-34 and of these, ½ were caused by weight loss or energy enhancement products leading to chest pain, palpitation and irregular heart rhythms. Among adults >65 years old, choking or pill-induced dysphagia represented over 1/3rd of the visits.

These preliminary findings are showing gaps in safety with current F.D.A regulations at least within the U.S. This could this be a call for more regulations and stricter guidelines on nutritional supplements.

Andrew I. Geller, M.D., Nadine Shehab, Pharm.D., M.P.H., Nina J. Weidle, Pharm.D., Maribeth C. Lovegrove, M.P.H., Beverly J. Wolpert, Ph.D., Babgaleh B. Timbo, M.D., Dr.P.H., Robert P. Mozersky, D.O., and Daniel S. Budnitz, M.D., M.P.H. N Engl J Med 2015; 373:1531-1540October 15, 2015DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1504267

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