March 2019

Supplement-related calls to Poison Control Centers on the rise

Poison Prevention Week is coming up the third week in March. Although many people don't realize it, dietary supplements can cause serious health concerns when taken incorrectly. In fact, they are a common reason for calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers, and dietary-supplement-related calls are on the rise.

From 2000 to 2012, U.S. Poison Control Centers received nearly 275,000 calls related to dietary supplements - that’s one call every 24 minutes. The majority of the calls involved miscellaneous dietary supplements, followed by botanicals and hormonal products. Of these, 70% related to dietary supplement use in children younger than six years-old. These exposures were mostly accidental, so it’s important to store dietary supplements out of the reach of children.

The biggest culprits for toxicity were ma huang products, also known as ephedrayohimbe, and energy products. Ephedra was banned in the U.S. in 2004, as it can cause life-threatening side-effects. Yohimbe can also cause serious side effects, but it is still available in the U.S. Yohimbine hydrochloride is a standardized form of yohimbine that is available as a prescription drug, but it’s not approved by the FDA for any indication.

Remind your patients that dietary supplements are not always safe, and to always discuss them with you before starting treatment. Also, recommend that they only use products that are verified by a third party like USP and NSF to avoid exposure to potentially harmful undeclared ingredients. Always follow the directions on product labels, and make sure to store dietary supplements out of the reach of children.

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