When FDA-Approved Drugs Stumble, Shouldn’t Patients and Healthcare Providers Consider Dietary Supplements Instead?

Our friends at the FDA have come under a lot of criticism lately.

It seems that every time you open a newspaper (OK, we actually open our browser these days), there’s a new revelation about problems with an FDA-approved drug:

• Vioxx: approved by the FDA in 1999 to treat arthritis pain; withdrawn by manufacturer Merck in 2004 because of concerns about increased risk of heart attack and stroke associated with long-term, high-dosage use

• Statins: a class of FDA-approved drugs to lower cholesterol, including such well-known names as Lipitor; studies have found statin therapy may be associated with heart problems and myopathy (muscle weakness)

• Procrit: one of several drugs for anemia that now carry FDA-mandated “black-box” warnings indicating that they can increase risk of death or serious medical complication, especially when used at high dosage. Procrit and other red blood cell-stimulating drugs had been advertised as “improving quality of life,” but can worsen cancer and increase the risk of blod clots

• Avandia: in May, 2007 the New England Journal of Medicine published a report concluding that this FDA-approved diabetes drug is associated with increased heart attack risk; federal drug reviewers agreed, and said that Avandia is particularly dangerous for people also taking insulin

These and other revelations led Congress to pass legislation this year aimed at improving the FDA’s ability to force follow-up studies on approved drugs, so that serious problems could be detected earlier. (There’s a lot to say about how the FDA approval process has been corrupted by its dependence on funding from pharmaceutical companies, but for the moment we’ll pass by that topic!)

Here we’d just like to ask whether it doesn’t make sense–given such issues as these with prescription drugs—-for patients and their healthcare providers to consider dietary supplements and nutritional strategies as an alternative whenever possible.

Some specific alternatives to the drugs above:

• Glucosamine and chondroitin for osteoarthritis pain; SAMe also effective for this purpose in some trials.

• Niacin and/or fish oil to manage cholesterol; CoQ 10 to offset statin-related side effects. (See the studies on CoQ 10 in this Blog for evidence about how this supplement can counter statin-related muscle pain and diastolic function impairment.) 

• Marrow Plus to counter anemia; may be useful for chemotherapy-associated anemia. See this comment on Marrow Plus from one NYBC member who used it to maintain blood counts during six months of Pegasys/Ribavirin combination therapy for Hep C.

• Chromium supplementation may improve insulin function in diabetics; dietary supplements such as Glycemic Balance may also be useful.

–EXCERPTED FROM THE FORTHCOMING FALL, 2007 NEWSLETTER OF THE NEW YORK BUYERS’ CLUB, THE SUPPLEMENT.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS MENTIONED HERE, OR TO READ PAST ISSUES OF THE SUPPLEMENT, PLEASE VISIT

www.newyorkbuyersclub.org

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