December 23, 2010

from NHS Website

“Alternative remedies can be dangerous for children and can even prove fatal,” the BBC reported.

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 Australian doctors.

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.'


What 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 pediatricians.


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 outcomes.


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 research involve?

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.


What 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 conventional medicine

  • all four deaths resulted from a failure to use conventional medicine in favor of CAM therapies

The study included cases of adverse effects in pregnancy, overdoses of CAM and malnutrition caused by dietary restrictions.

  • 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 therapies.

  • 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 monitor.


They suggest that regulation frameworks are needed to establish standards of practice for individual CAM disciplines.



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 effects.


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 as steroids.

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

...Based on Scant Evidence
by Mike Adams

the Health Ranger
December 28, 2010

from NaturalNews Website

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 there.

Here are the facts.


Australian researchers 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 this:

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 doctors.

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 study.


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: complementary therapies,

"...can even prove fatal, if substituted for conventional medicine."

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 happened,

"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 eczema.


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 eczema.

  • 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 U.S. alone.


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 hospitals.

"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 Melbourne, concluded.

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 Pediatrics (AAP) 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...