Why Has the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital Just Announced a Formal Policy Forbidding Nutritional Supplements?

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children hospital philadelphiaLook no further than the chair of the hospital’s therapeutic standards committee.

The chair of this key committee is none other than Paul Offit, MD, a wealthy vaccine inventor and anti-supplement crusader. He says that integrative medicine is nothing more than “magic” and a “placebo effect.” Too bad that children and their parents in Philadelphia will now either have to dance to his tune or find another hospital.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) announced last week that their formulary (the list of medications approved for use) will no longer include most nutritional supplements because they are “unregulated” and may be dangerous.

On top of that, the hospital will not allow patients to use most supplements without running a medical gauntlet and signing all sorts of forms. If parents are brave enough even to consider standing up to a wall of white coats, with who-knows-what-kind of treatment backlash for their children, they had better bring lawyers to read all the legal documents.

Of course the hospital has left itself an out. If it wants to, it says that it can still use supplements of its own choice. We aren’t told which specifically these might be. Perhaps these are the few supplements approved by the FDA, but by virtue of approval these are also drugs. More likely this is simply a loophole intended to provide some wiggle room. We don’t know.

In some ways, the hospital’s new formal policy is not surprising. Most hospitals maintain an informal policy forbidding or discouraging the use of supplements. But making the policy explicit is a departure. And one of the interesting results of a formal policy is we get to read the hospital’s explanation. Oddly, the hospital’s reasoning turns out to be, well, magical, not scientific.

The hospital claims that FDA does not “routinely review the manufacturing of dietary supplements, therefore cannot guarantee their safety.” It also argues that supplements are essentially “unregulated.” That’s all flat-out false. Manufacturing review for dietary supplements is the same process as for pharmaceutical drugs. Dietary supplement makers have to comply with Current Good Manufacturing Practices just as pharmaceutical drug makers do—or they would be breaking the law (and subject to FDA enforcement!).

While supplements do not need to be tested in randomized controlled trials before being brought to market, that form of vetting would be inappropriate for them. Patented drugs in general are patentable precisely because they are entirely new substances never seen before in nature. We have not co-evolved with them. Their effects on the human body are unknown.

Because the patent confers a monopoly on the manufacturer, pharmaceutical companies often make billions of dollars from their drugs, making it worth their while to spend an average of $1 billion to win FDA approval. To say that food supplements must be FDA-approved is simply to say that they will cease to exist. The economics would be completely impossible.

Dietary supplements are also typically used in an individualized way, often with necessary co-factors (e.g., vitamin K must be taken with calcium). This does not fit the one-size-fits-all approach of randomized controlled trials. We reported last year about other problems with randomized controlled trials.

Sarah Erush, PhD, pharmacy clinical manager of CHOP, stated, “We’d much rather treat children with what we know works than provide them with a substance that may at best do nothing, or at worst, cause harm.” Is it really possible that a healthcare professional could be so ignorant as to believe that nutritional supplements will “at best” do “nothing?”

Erush mentions “interactions with medications” as a pitfall, which is a valid concern, but it isn’t as if these interactions are unknown. If the hospital is in doubt about the relatively few supplements that represent an issue when taken with drugs, they can go to the Mayo Clinic or other reputable websites for the information they should know anyway. And while we are discussing this subject, is the hospital equally concerned about drug interactions? We don’t think so.

This raises another alarming point. The hospital says they will not be satisfied unless the supplements are subjected to drug trials, not just on adults, but on children. Presumably then the hospital will also agree not to use any drugs that have not been tested on children as well? Of course not, because very few drugs given children have been tested specifically on children, much less on different age brackets of children. CHOP’s hypocrisy is astounding.

Let’s also keep in mind that even with randomized controlled trials (mostly on adults, often foreign adults of unknown health status) and FDA pre-approval, drugs’ history of safety is abysmal compared to supplements. As we reported in 2011, prescription drugs cause 487 times more adverse events than supplements, even though the standards for supplements are far more stringent. If a pharmaceutical company lists “chest pain” or “seizures” as a possible side effect of their drug, then these are considered to be within the range of expected outcomes! However, as USA Today reported, an “adverse event” for a supplement could be simply that it’s not working for that individual.

Two years ago, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to review adverse event reports for supplement manufacturers, and the GAO came back with this: “The greatest challenge for identifying potential safety concerns from Adverse Event Reports (AERs) is the small number of AERs that FDA receives related to dietary supplements.” Durbin tried to spin this as adverse events being under-reported, but a subsequent investigation by the GAO found that there were only twenty instances of reporting problems with adverse events, demonstrating that the vast majority of supplement companies are abiding by the reporting requirements.

By discouraging the use of nutritional supplements, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is doing far more harm than good to their young patients. Due to poor diet, depleted soil, and toxins in our environment, few children get all the nutrition they need from their food, least of all hospital food selected by dieticians whose organization is supported by junk food companies.

ANH-USA has some recommendations on safe supplement use. Also be sure to read “Big Pharma and FDA: A Marriage Not Made in Heaven,” also in this issue. It’s excerpted from a new book, Crony Capitalism in America 2008-2012, written by the president of ANH-USA’s board, Hunter Lewis.

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  • It is clear that nutrition plays a huge role in our health.
    What possible, good, reason could anyone have for limiting this basic, base, pursuit of good health?

  • James A. Zeller Ph.D.

    The FDA like Congress is getting to be disturbing. They either don’t function or they function contrary to the will of the public. It is time to do some restructuring. How about dismanteling the FDA and start over with three or four much smaller agencies that can be managed properly. It is becoming increasingly obvious that big Pharma too is a detriment to the public well-being. Where is TR when you need him???!!!??? James A. Zeller Ph. D.

    • Ginger Ratsep

      The guy running the FDA came from Monsanto….enough said.

  • James A. Zeller Ph.D.

    The FDA like Congress is getting to be disturbing. They either don’t function or they function contrary to the will of the public. It is time to do some restructuring. How about dismanteling the FDA and start over with three or four much smaller agencies that can be managed properly. It is becoming increasingly obvious that big Pharma too is a detriment to the public well-being. Where is TR when you need him???!!!??? James A. Zeller Ph. D.

  • James A. Zeller Ph.D.

    The FDA like Congress is getting to be disturbing. They either don’t function or they function contrary to the will of the public. It is time to do some restructuring. How about dismanteling the FDA and start over with three or four much smaller agencies that can be managed properly. It is becoming increasingly obvious that big Pharma too is a detriment to the public well-being. Where is TR when you need him???!!!??? James A. Zeller Ph. D.

  • James A. Zeller Ph.D.

    The FDA like Congress is getting to be disturbing. They either don’t function or they function contrary to the will of the public. It is time to do some restructuring. How about dismanteling the FDA and start over with three or four much smaller agencies that can be managed properly. It is becoming increasingly obvious that big Pharma too is a detriment to the public well-being. Where is TR when you need him???!!!??? James A. Zeller Ph. D.

  • James A. Zeller Ph.D.

    The FDA like Congress is getting to be disturbing. They either don’t function or they function contrary to the will of the public. It is time to do some restructuring. How about dismanteling the FDA and start over with three or four much smaller agencies that can be managed properly. It is becoming increasingly obvious that big Pharma too is a detriment to the public well-being. Where is TR when you need him???!!!??? James A. Zeller Ph. D.

  • dinda evans

    enforcement!).

    While supplements do not need to be tested in randomized controlled trials before being brought to market, that form of vetting would be inappropriate for them. Patented drugs in general are patentable precisely because they are entirely new substances never seen before in nature. We have not co-evolved with them. Their effects on the human body are unknown.

    Because the patent confers a monopoly on the manufacturer, pharmaceutical companies often make billions of dollars from their drugs, making it worth their while to spend an average of $1 billion to win FDA approval. To say that food supplements must be FDA-approved is simply to say that they will cease to exist. The economics would be completely impossible.

    Dietary supplements are also typically used in an individualized way, often with necessary co-factors (e.g., vitamin K must be taken with calcium). This does not fit the one-size-fits-all approach of randomized controlled trials. We reported last year about other problems with randomized controlled trials

    We already know that vitamins help…I am elderly and my drs tell me to buy calcium for my osteoporosis and niacin for high cholesterol because I am alergic to niaspan. Please don’t let Pharmacuetical companies mess with our vitamins, etc. They have a history of making things dangerous to the public.

  • Meredith Hill

    Years ago are foster daughter was a patient at CHOP and I asked for acidophilus to be given to her and it was. I also used essential oils on her. The doctors loved the aroma. It is very upsetting to read about what is taking place now. It seems CHOP is in the dark ages.

  • Dr. Paul; Offit is being paid or he really believes that suppliements are dangerous, though the “stuff” in vaccines is not. Every child, every senior becoming lost in their own mind come back when organic sulfur, not a supplement being everyone even DR, Offit are sulfur deficient.
    I personally believe Dr. Paul Offit is paid very well to fight against supplements.
    Use another hospital.

  • Derek Blair

    Idiocy seems to be a permanent affliction in the medical field; particularly when, as you suggest, the Lord High Offit is in close collaboration witth the FDA. (Rubles, comrade, rubles…)

    Need I state anything further?

  • Wesley Griffin

    One reason doctors in this area don’t recommend supplements are because they don’t contain enough ingredient’s to do any good. (waste of money) I have taken several supplements for years and agree , they just are not what they were a few years back. To get any type of quality supplement around here, you would need to order it off the internet, and it will be way over priced with shipping and handling . I think the move is going to be that you will need to have a doctors recommendation to get any real quality supplements in the future. I have stopped taking most of the supplements because of the outrageous cost, and the almost no quality of these things from retail. The doctor recommended supplements are priced way to high for the average person, equal to or higher than the drugs they prescribe for some of the same problems.
    All of this will come down to regulation and that is where the FDA will rule. When you regulate something to death, people will be forced to look elsewhere, that is when Big Pharm will rule.

    • Ginger Ratsep

      Wesley….Unfortunately you are correct about the quality of the vitamins available on store shelves. Issues range from products containing more or less of the active ingredients listed on the label to products containing lead, (a 2007 FDA study of 324 multivitamin-mineral products that specifically targeted women and children found that only four of them were lead-free). PCBs have been detected in Omega 3 supplements manufactured/distributed by CVS Pharmacy, GNC, Rite Aid, Solgar and Twinlab resulting in a lawsuit in California.

      We are kind of caught between a rock and a hard place. Our food is proven to be nutrient deficient, (especially all the GMO garbage that’s being forced down our throats), so we need to supplement. It does boil down to our taking responsibility for our health. The affordable synthetic vitamins don’t work. You say, that the ones that do work are too expensive. My question to you, what is your health worth to you? Would you rather pay for a supplement that does no harm or a prescription drug that comes with two or more pages of health warnings and serious side affects? Would you rather manage your wellness or trust it to the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies? I for one don’t want the FDA messing with my supplements. That would really cause the prices to skyrocket.

      I know of a woman who is on a healthy weight loss program and a supplement regiment. As a result, her cholesterol went down 100 points (she had only lost 40 lbs at the time), her blood pressure is normal, her blood work is excellent, her thyroid issue is starting to correct itself. She is off all her meds including the cholesterol med that was destroying her leg muscles and confining her to her home because she couldn’t walk. Plus, she’s cut down on her doctor’s visits. Her doctor believes it’s the combination of the supplements and the weight loss that has brought about the changes in her health. By the way, she still has over 100 lbs to loose, so the 40 pound loss alone wasn’t enough to result in such drastic changes.

      Again, what’s your health worth to you? The doctors had told this woman there was nothing more they could do for her. She was a living time bomb. She took control and made wellness a choice.

      There are affordable high quality supplements available. You just need to look for the ones that have the scientific evidence, the research and the quality control. Do not settle for anything less.

  • Kristine Hart

    Parents must be free to use whatever means they think right for their children’s healing. To restrict is to take vital control out of the hands of parents.

  • Robin Willis

    Well, another way to control our community, society and world. The greed of these mindless people is incredibly upsetting. The medical community needs to move forward and keep their minds open and listen to the patients to what they are saying and wanting for their families.

  • Kathleen Ervin

    To Whom it may Concern,

    Our children are suffering an epidemic of obesity, fatty liver disease, diabetes that are all caused by poor quality processed foods. Often the best treatment is to give supplements to offset the nutritional deficiency. To forbid healthcare providers from doing their job in this way is unethical and is likely to cause further health complications.

  • James McDonald

    Are you kidding me? A diet of properly grown food(no chemical fertilizer and the like!) is 5 times better for you and more likely to help you heal than 85% of the meds they pass out! In fact the the meds have/already killed/hurt/maimed people where as the food might cause you to gain weight or lose some. Food is a very powerful tool, and “they” are showing this by trying to remove good healing foods from their patients! Shame on them all! I hope when/if “they” get sick all “they” get is what “they” allowed to their patients!!!!!

  • ASD mum

    Hmmmmmmmm…………Paul Offit
    It was interesting to watch a recent interview of this so-called “man of science” by Dr Topol , editor of Medscape. There was snickering and snide comments about alternate medicine ( while promoting Offit’s
    book “do You Believe in Magic?”) which reminded me so much of little boys behind the bike shed in my 6th class when I was 11 years old……….snickering over sexual activities and girls undies.

    Meanwhile, as Dr Russell Blaylock wisely observed……..”no amount of science , even overwhelming, will overturn the blind belief in myths” held by many MDs (men like Offit). All the science is on the side of the dangers of vaccines while all the ‘magic beliefs’ are held by Offit et al that they are safe and food is dangerous(!!!)………as Psychologists know ,it’s called “projection” when attributes of oneself are attributed to others (ie it’s Offit et al who have a belief in magic),
    Future generations will look back on vaccination as an aberration in common sense and science and just shake their heads at the gullability of Offit et al.

  • Ruth Dtje

    Dietary supplements, used wisely, can do wonders in healing. I know from experience.

    Most companies are responsible manufactures of dietary supplements. One company may produce a supplements that is good & another company may produces another supplement that is good. With some effort one can find out which company produces the best vt A or the best vt D supplement.

    It takes knowledge & effort to make dietary supplements work. The same is true of medication.

    • Cathy Pagendarm

      When you buy supplements, you should research a few things: 1. Look for clinical studies on the ingredients or products – The best studies are Peer Review Journals. 2. Look for natural ingredients on the label, avoid artificial sweeteners, flavors, and preservatives. 3. Look for a company that focuses on safety and quality. 4. Look for an unconditional money back guarantee. 5. The manufacturer should be starting with “Organic Farmers” to begin with to eliminate the pesticides and herbicides, right from the beginning. 6. Testing of the raw material before they start any process because who knows if a plane overhead will release any jet fuel while traveling to the manufacturer, test during the process in case machinery/equipment fails and contaminates and then test just before putting in package. Spot checking doesn’t get it when it’s our health and our children’s health. 7. To know that our bodies react to things that are foreign in it and that alone causes reaction in our bodies called cronic inflammation among other things which hurts our organs and then they react. Things that are nature doesn’t really cause any reactions to the body, only on a few seldom times. “Nature Works Well With Nature, Nature Doesn’t Work Well With Synthetic.” I see this with my vegetable gardening with the soil. What goes into the soil, goes into your food by the roots of your plants, into the food for the animals that you eat etc. – Think about it. GMO do I need to say anything else?

  • Ilse Burch

    You would think that a doctor in charge of care of patients would be interested in giving his patients the greatest access to helpful treatments possible. Even if he personally thinks they don’t work (and I wonder if he has ever done any research about them), his patients will feel constricted by his bias, and their parents will wonder if his goal is actually to make their children better or to take care of big Pharma!

    I hope he gets his head handed to him on a platter!

  • Martha Hauer

    Lets give good food and food supplements a try before we give people stuff conjured up in labs with god knows what side effects….

  • Danette

    Invasive, controlling, personal agenda……sounds like out government! Very disappointed.

  • R Jensen

    “Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)…”

    That name is ironic considering all the unnecessary surgery being done by doctors.

  • Don

    More people die each year from taking medication as prescribed by their Doctor than die from gun shots !!!!

  • TrulyJen

    The hospital claims that FDA does not “routinely review the manufacturing of dietary supplements, therefore cannot guarantee their safety.”

    Their “guarantee” of safety on the “approved” drugs has a pretty dismal track record, so that statement is absolutely ridiculous,

    • Sean

      And the FDA doesn’t have the right to shoot down supplements unless they ARE proven dangerous, but have shown that they can get what they need to remove them despite proven studies and efficacy far outstripping any drug company or drug out there.

      It’s s classic case of cognitive dissonance and casting blame on something they cannot make a massive fortune on in order to promote the stuff that they know can kill you.

      Honestly, when was the last time you heard of Death by Vitamin C?

      Yeah, me neither, and neither has the Poison Control Centers of America.

  • Leigh Anne

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/267391.php?utm_source=Praktikos+Institute+Updates&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=4f504af4e4-Today%27s+News+%28Campaign%29&utm_term=0_6e3529e57b-4f504af4e4-6102857

    I find this move tremendously disturbing especially in light of the above referenced article that states: “A new study has found that the use of oral nutritional supplements provided to pediatric patients during hospitalization was associated with a decrease in length of stay of 14.8 percent and a decrease in hospital stay costs of $1,768 per patient. The study, conducted by leading researchers at the University of Southern California, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Precision Health Economics, and supported by Abbott, was presented at the 2013 North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) Annual Meeting in Chicago.” CHOP was part of this study!!! I wonder what is really going on here and what agenda is being pushed.

  • Kelli

    Now thats one hospital I would never go to and children should not go anywhere near it. Offit is simply pushing his agenda onto others and harming them in the process. Kids, and anyone else, should not be denied supplements. The medical authorities are perfectly okay with giving toxic pharmaceuticals to kids yet they fear supplements? Definitely an agenda. The policy of this hospital is the reason I try to avoid conventional medicine, the ignorance and dismissal of alternative health therapies.