Consider a patient having surgery. It is already common practice for surgical personnel to assess for and discontinue the 3 “G’s” of herbal supplements before surgery.
· Garlic is commonly used to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
· Ginkgo biloba is known to improve memory.
· Ginseng helps lower blood sugar levels and provides an energy boost.
These over-the-counter products are very common for the above-mentioned reasons. However, they can all cause prolonged bleeding during or after surgery. If any one of them is overlooked and a patient goes into surgery, they will be at risk for a bleeding complication.
The FDA also identified that children are at risk for adverse reactions from combining supplements with certain medications due to the unique ways that children metabolize substances. They metabolize products at a different rate depending on age. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers are also urged to take precaution against these potential drug interactions.
Assessment and disclosure of a person’s supplement history is key!
I cannot stress how important it is to specifically inquire about ALL over-the-counter medications when trying to develop a complete medication history. The general public does not consider these products significant and likely do not even realize the serious impact of omitting its disclosure. The reason for this is that many dietary supplements claim to be “all-natural” or “herbal” and thus, have a common misconception of being safe. Even if a medical form specifically asks about over-the-counter medications, the general public has a tendency to omit herbal and other dietary supplements.
Do you have a COMPLETE medication list for your client? Can your client's supplement history actually defend a medical malpractice case? If a plaintiff does not reveal a history of supplement use, do they share responsibility for any life-threatening effect that occurs? Is it solely the consumers responsibility to read and educate themselves comparing the lists of interactions in the tiny print provided by the manufacturer? Do physicians always update and review a supplement history before prescribing any medication and warn against any adverse effects? Just a few thoughts about how this FDA warning could impact your case!