Alternative medicines vs. prescription drugs, which are more dangerous? | December 24, 2010

A new survey led by Australian researchers suggests using alternative medicines, or homeopathic remedies,  may be dangerous for kids.

The survey found four deaths between 2001 and 2003 that were associated with use of alternative treatments in Australia.

Alissa Lim of the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne went through all reports by Australian pediatricians and found 39 indicating  side effects,  including the four deaths associated with not using conventional medicine.

The report is published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 38 percent of U.S. adults used complementary or alternative medicine like herbal remedies, dietary supplements, vitamin supplements, or enzymes in 2004.

The health agency also reported in 2008 that in the United States about 12 percent of children under 17 used CAM-therapy.

Deaths associated with use of dietary supplements or alternative medicine are rare, compared to the death toll from the medical errors and prescription drugs, according to Dr. Gary Null, a health and nutrition expert and award-winning talk radio host.

Dr. Null cited reports indicating the number of deaths due to medical mistakes annually:

adverse drug reactions - 106,000 deaths/yr

medical errors- 98,000 deaths/yr

unnecessary procedures - 37, 136 deaths/yr

surgery - 32,000 deaths/yr

David Liu and editing by Aimee Keenan-Greene