FDA-Backed "Study" Claims 23,000 Supplement Related ER Visits
FDA-Backed "Study" Claims 23,000 Supplement Related ER Visits
Breaking news from the world of supplements. At 5pm EST today (October 15th, 2015), the FDA will be announcing what they call a "study" that is claiming dietary and nutritional supplements lead to 23,000 emergency room visits per year.

There are several interesting points about this study that the average consumer should be aware of. First, this study is FDA funded and co-authored. Second, the numbers in this study are not derived from actual AER data. This second point is the most important.

In 2012 the AER (Adverse Events Reports) officially reported slightly less than 3,300 supplement-related emergency room visits. This reality is a far cry from the claims about to be made public by this FDA-backed information.

This study will also stress the importance of packaging, suggesting that all dietary supplements should feature child-proof packaging. Many supplements already include child-resistant packaging.

Released on Wednesday by the New  England Journal of Medicine (click here to read), the claims of this study are as follows:

"On the basis of 3667 cases, we estimated that 23,005 (95% confidence interval [CI], 18,611 to 27,398) emergency department visits per year were attributed to adverse events related to dietary supplements. These visits resulted in an estimated 2154 hospitalizations (95% CI, 1342 to 2967) annually. Such visits frequently involved young adults between the ages of 20 and 34 years (28.0% of visits; 95% CI, 25.1 to 30.8) and unsupervised children (21.2% of visits; 95% CI, 18.4 to 24.0)."

Dietary SupplementsA similar study reported that prescription drugs lead to 701,547 emergency room visits per read. You can read this study here. If the FDA report on nutritional supplements was correct, prescription drug use results in 30.49 times more emergency room visits per year.

Based on actual reported data, prescription drug use results in 212 times more emergency room visits per year. Considering how large the nutritional supplement market is, approximately $32 billion in sales per year, this rate of supplement-related ER visits is actually shockingly low.
Considering how large the nutritional supplement market is, approximately $32 billion in sales per year, this rate of supplement-related ER visits is actually shockingly low.
In light of the fact that 150,000,000 Americans use dietary supplements per year, the rate of emergency room visits equates to one in every 45,454. This is based upon actual reported data, and not the estimations provided by the FDA.

An estimated 70% of Americas use at least one prescription drug per year. This equates to one in every 440 Americans who use prescription drugs visits the emergency room per year for drug-related issues.

These numbers reveal another interesting reality. Prescription drug users are 103 times more likely to visit the ER than individuals using dietary and nutritional supplements.

This number is certainly not presented to downplay supplement-related emergency room visits, but rather to frame the statistics properly. Statistics, without a proper perspective or reference point, can be misleading.

The Washington Post included an interesting breakdown of women that visited the emergency room for supplement-related issues. It should be noted that these statistics exclude children.

From 2004 to 2013, the estimated (once again, "estimated") visits for women were from:
  • Micronutrient supplements - 31.2%
  • Energy - 11.4%
  • Iron - 7.5%
  • Cardiovascular health - 6.9%
  • Calcium - 6.7%
  • Sexual enhancement - 0.5%
  • Bodybuilding - 2 reported cases
Duffy MacKay, senior vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, went on record stating that the results of this study reinforce the safety of dietary supplements.

"To put this projected number of 23,000 annual emergency room (ER) visits into context, we estimate that far less than one tenth of one percent of dietary supplement users experience an emergency room visit annually,"

MacKay also stressed that these claimed statistics inaccurately include products like eye drops and ear drops, so the numbers are even lower.

Marc Lobliner, CEO of MTS Nutrition, made this official statement:

"The only thing more laughable than the 'researchers' conducting this 'study' is the way in which it is reported. Correlation studies are BS, and this 'study' doesn't even factor in AER (Adverse Events Reports) put into place by the FDA to report incidents with dietary supplements.

This 'study' is the equivalent to someone saying that Michael Jackson drank water the day of his death, hence water is a contributing factor to his untimely demise. Listing a supplement on a doctor's examination does not even hint that the supplement was responsible for anything.

This article, like most crap spewed by the mainstream media about dietary supplements, is misleading, sensationalist, and just plain ridiculous."