November 05 2012
When Consumer Reports speaks, people listen - and this time the consumer advocacy agency is advising you on where to get your care - or not - if you need to go to the hospital.
It's the first time Consumer Reports has investigated hospital safety,1 and the results show hospital ratings don't always match public opinions. Some of the most well-known hospitals got the worst ratings.
Except for the Mayo Clinic's various campuses, which have exceptionally good scores, others like Mass General and Mount Sinai in New York, didn't rate as well as you might expect.
One hospital, Sacred Heart of Chicago, scoring an abysmal 16 on a 100-point safety scale was ranked the most dangerous in the country.
A clinic in Billings, Montana scored the highest.
Hospitals were ranked according to six critera:2
An Epidemic of Health Care Harm
The above was written in Consumer Reports.3
There are also other sources that can help you evaluate the safety of a hospital, such as:
On Calling the Kettle Black
Statistics like these make safety allegations against alternative forms of health care, including the use of herbal remedies and supplements in lieu of drugs, all the more ludicrous.
Natural health modalities have repeatedly come under attack as being inherently risky. Risky compared to what? Clearly, these people do not know what they're talking about when they claim conventional health care is superior to natural, holistic modalities.
Superior in what way? Putting you out of your misery quicker?
One such misguided person is Dick Durbin, current state senator of my home state, Illinois, which, as we now know is also home to the most dangerous hospital in the United States. I find this to be particularly ironic since Senator Durbin is a staunch pro-pharma supporter who time and again has tried to destroy alternative health and eliminate supplements.
Earlier this summer, he tried to sneak in a last-minute anti-supplement amendment into an FDA bill. Fortunately, over 100,000 Americans called their Congressmen within 24 hours to defeat the amendment.
The Alliance for Natural Health reported:4
Supplements Industry has an Unmatched Safety Record
Durbin is still on the war path against supplements, despite the fact that recent investigations in the US and the UK have concluded that supplements and herbal remedies have a sterling safety record.
The UK-based, international campaign group, the Alliance for Natural Health International (ANH-Intl) recently revealed data 6 showing that compared to supplements, an individual is:
Additionally, the data shows that adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs are:
The data, which was collected from official sources in the UK and EU, demonstrate that both food supplements and herbal remedies are in the 'super-safe' category of individual risk - meaning risk of death from their consumption is less than 1 in 10 million.
Similarly, the latest data from the U.S. National Poison Data System (2010 report),7 NO deaths were attributable to vitamin and mineral supplements that year.
And, as noted by Orthomolecular Medicine News Service last year,8 Americans easily take more than 60 billion doses of nutritional supplements every year, and with zero related deaths this is an outstanding safety record:
Senators Durbin, Blumenthal "Deeply Concerned"
...about Poor Manufacturing Standards
While supplements may be one of the safest industries, there's certainly room for improvement, especially when it comes to quality standards.
The good news is that even when quality is lacking, the risk you take relates more to the fact that the product will not provide you with the same benefits as a high-quality product might, as opposed to posing a life-threatening risk to your health - like drugs do.
Still, the fact that you're more likely to die from drowning in your bathtub than from a supplement or herbal remedy, supplements are still being attacked as "dangerous."
If Senator Durbin truly cared about the safety of individuals, then he should be spending more time addressing the abysmal safety record of our hospitals, and the rampant prescriptions of dangerous drugs. Especially since the most dangerous hospital in the US is right in his backyard. But no. He's got smaller fish to fry.
Senators Durbin and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) recently sent off letters to the Natural Products Association (NPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), stating:
The hubbub stems from a June 30 article in the Chicago Tribune, which claims: 9
The article goes on to describe how supplements are produced in "unsanitary factories." One New Jersey-based protein powder manufacturer is alleged to have been mixing powders and supplements in "a facility infested with rodents, rodent feces and urine."
Serious supplement adverse events are so rare that media and supplement critics repeatedly roll out Total Body Formula's problems from back in 2008 (as Dateline NBC did in its March 18, 2012, broadcast) to beat the anti-supplement drum. The Tribune's reporter has a history of launching attacks against "alternative" medicine.
The reporter's inclusion of deaths linked to cough syrup made by a Panamanian pharmaceutical company in 2006 adds further proof of bias.
Beware the Double Standards
I'd like to remind everyone that the FDA allows all manner of contaminations in the processed foods you consume every day, and it thinks nothing of it.
For example, up to six percent of chips are allowed to have rot from pre- or post-harvest infection. Acceptable levels of mold go as low as 15 percent in canned tomatoes to as high as 45 percent for ketchup. Up to 30 fly eggs per every 100 grams of tomato sauce is okay, as is two maggots per every 100 grams of tomato juice.
The FDA also will not mandate action unless 10 or more whole or equivalent Drosophila flies and 35 of its eggs are found per 8 ounces of raisins.
Ground turkey is allowed up to 49.9% positive testing for salmonella under USDA guidelines, with ground chicken allowed up to 44.6%. When it comes to food, a certain amount of bugs and other contaminants is considered safe by the FDA. I absolutely agree that the supplement industry needs to work hard to ensure high-quality products of high purity.
However, there's no need to try to shut down the entire industry as unsafe, as all available data attests to the contrary! Can you get ill from a supplement or herb? Yes. But your chances of suffering a serious side effect or death from a drug is astronomically higher.
Again, your risk of dying from an adverse drug effect is 62,000 times higher than that of a supplement. Your chances of dying from food poisoning is also FAR greater than having a lethal reaction to a supplement.
In the end it comes down to keeping things in perspective. If Congress wants to protect us from health care harm, they need to get their priorities in order.
In response to Senator Durbin's letter, the Natural Products Association replied, in part: 10
Although I do not promote the use of many supplements in general, believing it is far better to get your nutrition from food, there are exceptions to this rule, and if you choose to use them in lieu of drug therapy, you're certainly reducing your risk of serious side effects.
It is prudent, however, to make sure you're using a high-quality product. Not only will this protect you from any potential harmful effects from contaminants, but such products will also offer the greatest possible benefits so that you're not wasting your money on an ineffective product.
Big businesses have been buying up emerging supplement manufacturers similar to what we've witnessed in the organic industry.
Nearly 70 percent of American adults are now taking supplements, and you can bet the drug industry and a few politicians will work hard to make this another model of control and profits for a few elite businesses. I'd recommend keeping close tabs on CT Sen. Richard Blumenthal and IL Sen. Dick Durbin.
If you live in Illinois, please ask him about his inaccurate statements on the senate floor.
You can reach them here: