December 23, 2010
“Alternative remedies can be
dangerous for children and can even prove fatal,” the
The story is based on a study that
looked at adverse events associated with the use of complementary
and alternative medicine (CAM), that had been reported by
The study reported 39 cases of
adverse events associated with the use of CAM, including four deaths
associated with a failure to use
conventional medicine in favor of
alternative treatment. Other adverse events were associated with
medication changes made by CAM practitioners, and dietary
restrictions. In 25 cases, the adverse events were rated as severe,
life threatening or fatal.
The researchers conclude that doctors need to establish systems by
which adverse events from CAM can be reported or monitored.
This is a small but important study, highlighting the
possible risks to children associated with the use of
alternative therapy, in particular, where it replaces conventional
medicine or where practitioners advocate dietary restrictions.
As the researchers point out, parents can believe CAM to be safe
because they regard it as natural. This is not the case however, and
just because something is not ‘man made’ does not make it safe.
CAM products are also not subject to the
stringent regulations that govern conventional medicines.
Where did the
story come from?
The study was carried out by
researchers from the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, and the
University of Melbourne in Australia. There is no information about
any external funding.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal,
Archives of Disease in Childhood. The study was reported
accurately by the BBC and the Daily Mail.
Both reports included comments and
advice to parents from independent 'experts.'
kind of research was this?
This is a small study, describing several cases of adverse events in
children that were associated with CAM, as reported by
The researchers note that complementary
and alternative medicines are often administered to children, in the
mistaken belief that they are natural and therefore harmless. There
is currently limited data on the incidence and nature of adverse
events associated with CAM and no defined way for reporting adverse
The aim of this study was to determine
the types of adverse events associated with the use of CAM, as
reported by pediatricians.
What did the
The researchers found the cases of adverse CAM related events, using
an existing 'surveillance unit', normally used to detect rare
disorders in childhood.
The unit distributed monthly report
cards to Australian pediatricians, who indicated any cases of
adverse events associated with CAM that they had seen. Doctors who
reported a suspected CAM-associated adverse event were given a
two-page questionnaire asking for further details, including the
type of adverse event, an assessment of its cause and severity,
whether it was related to failure to use conventional medicines and
the CAM therapy used.
The study was conducted over 36 months, from 2001 to 2003.
were the basic results?
The researchers say there were 39 reports of adverse events
associated with CAM in children from birth to 16 years of age.
They say the events ranged in severity
from mild to severe, with four deaths.
in 25 cases (64%), the adverse
events were rated as severe, life-threatening or fatal
in 30 cases (77%), the adverse
events were considered by doctors to be either probably
or definitely related to CAM
in 17 cases (44%), doctors said
they believed that their patient had been harmed by a
failure to use
all four deaths resulted from a
failure to use conventional medicine in favor of CAM
The study included cases of adverse
effects in pregnancy, overdoses of CAM and malnutrition caused by
One of the deaths involved a
10-month-old infant who went into septic shock following
treatment with homeopathic medicines and dietary
restrictions for chronic eczema.
Another report was of sudden,
unexplained death through epilepsy in a child who had
previously had multiple seizures, and where conventional
medicine had been withdrawn in favor of various CAM
Other examples of adverse events
included failure to thrive in a toddler given rice milk for
constipation; constipation associated with valerian (a
herb); mouth ulcers associated with homeopathic drops; leg
pain following vitamin injections and bleeding associated
with use of ginkgo or ginseng.
How did the
researchers interpret the results?
The researchers say that use of CAM has the potential to cause
significant side effects and sometimes fatal outcomes.
Those at highest risk were infants on
restricted diets and children with a chronic health condition in
whom conventional therapies were withdrawn in favor of CAM. Children
with eczema, where the allergy is seen as a cause, may be at higher
risk of dietary restrictions.
They say that while some reported side effects were already
established, in other cases it was difficult to establish the cause.
Reporting of CAM adverse events is complicated because information
about the product and its ingredients may not be available. In
addition, some products are also contaminated with conventional
medicines such as steroids.
They argue that the wide range of CAM therapies available and the
different associated adverse events makes this a difficult area to
They suggest that regulation frameworks
are needed to establish standards of practice for individual CAM
This small study importantly highlighted adverse events associated
with CAM as reported by pediatricians, with a significant
proportion of life-threatening and fatal reports.
The researchers have not tried to
quantify the risk of adverse events associated with CAM or any
particular alternative treatment, but describe the cases that were
reported using an existing surveillance system.
As the researchers point out, it is possible that adverse events
associated with CAM may have been under-reported, due to factors
such as time pressure and uncertainty about cause. The information
that they managed to collect was from pediatricians only, rather
than other clinicians or CAM practitioners themselves.
Like most conventional medicines, CAM medicines can have side
Many alternative medicines are
classified as food supplements and are therefore not subject
to regulations governing conventional medicines. Alternative
treatments may also interact with conventional medicines and some
have been found to be contaminated with powerful medicines such
It is important that parents and others considering using CAM
products - and particularly if they are thinking about stopping or
changing doses of
conventional medicines - discuss
this with their doctors or prescribers.
- Junk Science Alert -
Researchers Declare Alternative
Therapies Dangerous to Children
on Scant Evidence
by Mike Adams
the Health Ranger
December 28, 2010
The headline emblazoned across a new British Medical Journal
(BMJ) press release proclaims this alarming warning: Complementary
medicines can be dangerous for children!
But when you look at the proof that's
supposedly been found documenting life-threatening dangers of
complementary and alternative therapies, guess what? It simply isn't
Here are the facts.
have just published their findings
in the BMJ's Archives of Disease in Childhood showing
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is inherently
dangerous for youngsters.
Their supposed evidence consists of
a few poorly documented reports of
CAM side effects that were turned in to the Australian Pediatric
Surveillance Unit between 2001 and 2003.
During these years, only 46 instances of
adverse events (ranging from side effects like constipation,
allergic reactions, mouth ulcers, and vomiting to seizures and four
deaths) associated with alternative and complementary therapies were
reported. And out of these, there were only 39 questionnaires about
treatments and symptoms that were completed by parents and/or
The reports included children from birth up to the age of 16. About
64% of the supposed CAM reactions were rated as severe, life
threatening or fatal.
That sounds like a huge number
until you remember that out of all the youngsters treated with CAM
in Australia (who probably number in the tens of millions), only 39
problems were documented over the course of several years for this
What's more, less than half (44%) of the
children's doctors were willing to say they thought their patients
had been harmed by a failure to use conventional treatment in favor
of CAM therapies.
In over three quarters of cases (77%), the adverse events were
considered to be probably or definitely related to CAM. However, the
terms "related" and "associated" used in the study imply links but
do not mean there was a direct cause and effect between CAM
treatments and the symptoms and outcomes.
Yet, the Australian research team
manages to squeeze this conclusion out of their scant facts:
"...can even prove fatal, if
One of the most tragic cases reported
that the Australian researchers tried to blame on CAM involved the
death of a 10 month old child who developed septic shock (a
potentially lethal drop in blood pressure due to widespread
infection in the blood).
The Australian researchers stated this
"after being treated with homeopathy
and a restricted diet for chronic eczema".
While the baby no doubt needed
appropriate medical care to fight the out-of-control infection, it
is common sense that the initial illness was most likely due to
bacteria entering the bloodstream through skin which was raw from
Yet the way the research article is
written gives the impression that CAM itself was the primary
culprit in the death. Moreover, there is no mention in the
article that mainstream conventional drugs might actually have
played a role in the baby's death.
A 2009 study published in the Journal
of Allergy and Clinical Immunology by the International Study of
Asthma and Allergies in Childhood found that when antibiotics
are used in the first year of life, they cause an increased risk of
Had the baby ever been treated
with prescription meds before his parents turned to CAM?
Could earlier mainstream
treatments have played a role in the eczema and later death
instead of (or in addition to) any alternative treatments?
Unfortunately, these kinds of details
are not revealed in the anti-CAM study.
While no one wants children to suffer due to inappropriate
treatments administered by parents, alternative health practitioners
or doctors, clearly a sample of less than four dozen cases of
youngsters experiencing side effects from complementary therapies
over the course of a few years and a study that doesn't compare side
effects and fatal outcome rates of prescription drugs and other
mainstream medical treatments to more natural approaches should not
be considered the definitive statement on the supposed
life-threatening dangers of CAM.
Perhaps the most obvious flaw in the Australian study is that while
it reports the four possible CAM related deaths as a dire example of
deadly consequences of alternative and complementary medicine, it
totally ignores the fact that conventional
Big Pharma drugs directly
cause the deaths of over 100,000 people of all ages each year in the
In fact, pharmaceutical therapies are
causing problems of catastrophic proportions
- one person dies every five minutes from mainstream medical drugs,
not from CAM.
And children are often the most vulnerable victims. Hundreds of
deaths of youngsters diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder
(ADD) who were put on
powerful stimulants such as Ritalin
have been reported to
the FDA MedWatch program,
for example. In 2006, the FDA finally administered strong warnings
for some of these drugs as horrendous real side effects (including
serious psychotic problems, heart attacks, and fatal heart
arrhythmias) became obvious.
Another case in point:
over 300 people, including children,
die in the U.S. from penicillin allergies each year. But there
is no available data showing that 300 people are dying in the
U.S. or Australia from CAM allergic reactions.
The new study also doesn't cite other
Australian research presented by University of Sydney researchers at
a conference of the International Pharmaceutical Federation earlier
this year showing that children are being put at serious risk from
the use of widely-available medicines for fever, coughs and colds.
That study showed a far bigger problem
with cough and cold medicines than with CAM therapies - 48 per cent
of calls in 2008 to the New South Wales Poisons Information
Centre, which receives all out of hours calls from around
Australia, concerned accidental overdose in children in from
mainstream over-the-counter medicines,
with 15 per cent of the kids so ill they had to be admitted to
"CAM use has the potential to cause
significant morbidity and fatal adverse outcomes," the authors
of the latest study, from the Royal Children's Hospital in
But the truth is, there's much more hard
evidence that there are far more common and better documented
dangers to kids than any CAM therapies.
For example, the American Academy of
warned earlier this year that every five days, a child in
the U.S. chokes to death while eating hot dogs, candies and
marshmallows; even more die after swallowing toys and balloons...