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Hype on All Sides 


In reference to your article "Drugs in Disguise" (Nov. 10), I think a few other drug facts are in order. Every year in the U.S., conservative estimates say that around 200,000 people die as a direct result of their doctor giving them the wrong drug, drug dose or drug combination. Prescription drug abuse now kills more people than abuse of heroin and cocaine, combined. The FDA receives about 1,000 adverse drug reaction reports about prescription drugs every day. And yet any time someone gets a bad reaction from herbal, vitamin or mineral supplements, it's headline news and the offending substance is removed from the market to "protect" the rest of us.

I would agree that many dietary supplements are nothing more than hype, but so are many prescription drugs. Antidepressants are no more effective that going for a walk or practicing a religion. Some older ones can even cause? a fatal reaction with certain foods. Up to 75 percent of prescriptions for antibiotics are used to "treat" viral infections such as colds or flu although there is absolutely no scientific basis to this. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses, and the massive misuse and overuse of them has caused the emergence of many antibiotic resistant superbugs. Many sleep aids and sedatives can cause irreversible brain damage, can be highly addictive and can cause a number of mental conditions including psychosis and delusion, and yet they remain on the market.

I agree that some supplements can be dangerous if used incorrectly and need to be used with caution. They should also be tested for strength, purity and contamination. We are still learning about how they react with each other and other forms of medication.
But put things in perspective. The alternative health movement is about people taking control of their own health and not giving their innate power to heal themselves to someone else. It's a work in progress.

Charles Davy, Bayside


I am baffled by your cover story, "Drugs in Disguise." According to the article, more than 30 percent of Americans take alternative medicines, which are unstandardized, and yet, dire results are hard to find. The author, Liza Lester, seemed very concerned that without FDA help, bad things might happen.

Lester neglected to mention that this year our nation hit a milestone. Drugs have pulled ahead of auto accidents as the leading cause of accidental death.

Those heavily regulated, FDA-approved, precisely calibrated, scientifically sound, thoroughly studied "safe" prescription drugs? They're responsible for more drug-related deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. Prescription drugs were involved in more than 20,000 deaths in 2008. For context, which this article sorely lacked, between 2001 and 2004 the FDA estimates that 159 people died from using ephedra.

Maja Hanson, Arcata

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