This is why people shouldn't buy unregulated, uncontrolled dietary supplements. Read the story linked to from the title--it's a doozy!
For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Reumofan is a non-prescription "all-natural dietary supplement" that many people in the US use for pain relief--it is marketed for arthritis and joint pain. However, despite it's claims to all-natural ingredients like shark cartilage and glucosamine, it's effects are not natural at all:
Dozens of Reumofan users have suffered serious and sometimes life-threatening health effects after taking the pills, including liver injury, strokes and severe episodes of bleeding, according to federal records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Three reports involve deaths, though the full toll of those injured will never be known because most adverse events involving supplements and drugs are never reported to the FDA.
And apparently, the company may not even really exist, or at least, not in any trackable form. There is an ongoing FDA investigation and to date they cannot find the company itself to even begin prosecuting them for the harm they have caused. Amazing.
Paul Offitt discusses this general issue in his new book Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine. This supplements industry is entirely unregulated and so things like this can happen--a drug therapy that may be bogus in the first place can cause irreparable harm to many people and yet the manufacturer gets off scott-free because nobody knows who they are.
As for the doctors who recommend junk like this? Between getting kickbacks from the companies themselves or the fact that people make and market they're own remedies, most of the doctors who recommend entirely unproven and untested non-FDA-approved supplements, or at least who do so with no reservations, should probably not be trusted any farther than they can be thrown, and any such recommendations should be taken with a bucketload of salt.
To patients out there, I can say only this: do your homework--if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.