Local doctor shares FDA concern about supplements


PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Nearly three-quarters of Americans take dietary supplements each day trying to gain a healthy edge. But some people are looking for more than an edge. They’re trying to treat very serious diseases on their own.
Some makers of those supplements claim their products are just the treatment they need to conquer such things as Alzheimer’s disease. Now, as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller Explains, a memory and cognitive expert is weighing-in on those claims.

“The FDA would say they are misleading from this letter.” Scrolling through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, Dr. Glen Finney reviewed the action the federal agency took Monday against 17 supplement manufacturers. “It’s about time.”

The FDA says those companies illegally claimed their products could prevent or treat such conditions as Alzhehimer’s Disease. Dr. Finner who is Director of Geisinger’s Geisinger Memory & Cognition Program said, “There’s really little to no evidence for most of them at this time and for some there actually has been proof that they don’t work and they can have some bad effects.” 

Dr. Finney, who’s also a board member with the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Pennsylania Chapter, is on the front lines of finding effective treatments for dementia-related issues. Through previous conclusive research, one of them he says is clearly ruled out: ginko biloba. “These ginko biloba supplements do not work for dementia and it could increase your bleeding risk.”

Dr. Finney raises concerns that supplement makers in question exploit a fundamental fact. “We do know that vitamin deficiencies can cause memory and cognition problems.” That knowledge, he says, may sway some who struggle with memory and cognition to try alternatives to FDA-approved products. “If people are trying one of these suppplements that haven’t been proven in replacement of medications that have been shown to improve quality of life and health then that is a problem.”

It could deprive patients of both help… and hope. “It’s really hard to see that hope that was kindled kind of diminish,” said Dr. Finney who added that some supplements may hold real promise some day but need in-depth studies. He also says you should discuss with your doctor any supplements you’re taking.

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