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Caregivers Give Children Herbal Remedies Without Knowing Adverse Effects
Nearly half of the caregivers surveyed in a large urban hospital reported giving their children herbal products or home remedies, even though they know little about potentially harmful side effects or adverse reactions with other medications, according to an Emory University study that was published in the May issue of Pediatrics.
The researchers from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, interviewed 142 families at a pediatric emergency department at an urban tertiary care children’s hospital between October 2001 and December 2001. Using a questionnaire developed by the investigators, caregivers responded to a series of questions about herbal and alternative therapies given to their children (ranging in age from 3 weeks to 18 years old). For the purposes of this study, herbal products were defined as substances used as health treatments that were not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and were not considered prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Forty-five percent of the caregivers interviewed reported using herbal or alternative remedies for their children. The most common therapies were aloe plant/juice (44%), echinacea (33%), and sweet oil (25%). The most common reasons for use of herbal therapies were colds, burns or cuts, immune stimulation, and relaxation.
Seventy-seven percent of the caregivers either were uncertain about or did not believe there were any side effects from herbal products. Of those who believed side effects were possible, only 27% could name a potential side effect. Furthermore, 66% of the caregivers were unsure or thought that herbal products could not potentially interact with other medications. Only two of the responders who thought interactions could occur correctly identified a potential drug interaction.
Researchers found that 61% percent of children on an herbal therapy were reportedly taking a prescription medication at the same time. The most dangerous potential herbal and prescription medication combination reported was the simultaneous use of ephedra and albuterol in an adolescent with asthma. That combination could result in a dangerously elevated heart rate.
Although 80% of people who used the therapies reported friends or relatives as their primary source of information, only 45% of those giving herbal products to children discussed the use with the child’s primary care provider.
FTC Says Claims of Coral Calcium Supreme Supplement Unsubstantiated
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged the marketers of the dietary supplement Coral Calcium Supreme with making false and unsubstantiated claims about the product’s health benefits. In a complaint filed in federal district court, the FTC alleges that Kevin Trudeau, Robert Barefoot, Shop America (USA) LLC, and Deonna Enterprises violated the FTC Act by claiming, falsely and without substantiation, that Coral Calcium Supreme can treat or cure cancer and other diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and heart disease. The FTC charges that these and other claims go far beyond existing scientific evidence regarding the recognized health benefits of calcium.
The defendants promote the product primarily through a nationally televised 30-minute infomercial featuring Trudeau and Barefoot, and through statements made in brochures accompanying the product. The informercial has aired on cable channels such as Women’s Entertainment, Comedy Central, the Discovery Channel, and Bravo.
In related law enforcement efforts, the FTC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are sending strong warning letters to web site operators who are marketing coral calcium products claiming that coral calcium is an effective treatment or cure for cancer and/or other diseases. Accordingly, the FTC is instructing the web site operators to remove any false or deceptive claims from their sites immediately. In a similar action, the FDA warned web site operators that disease claims and unsubstantiated structure/function claims cause their products to be in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
On page 43 of the June 2003 issue, the following statement is incorrect: "No infants in either group had an Apgar score of > 7 at five minutes." The sentence should have said: "No infants in either group had an Apgar score of < 7 at five minutes."