26 February 2010

I get letters

Lots of them -- press releases, requests for links, guest posts, spam, and the like.  It seems like 99% of them are mass-mailed without regard for the content or themes encountered on my blog.  (No, I don't want to host a dialogue on womens' gynecologic health -- nothing against it, but it's not really my gig, ya know?)  But every once in a while I get one that catches my attention, though not always in a good way, or at least not always in the way the author might have hoped.  For example, I got this from The "Trent & Company Marketing Communications" which I assume to be some PR agency:

Recently, congress introduced the “Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2-10,” which, if passed, will drive up the cost of dietary supplements and restrict access to them. The bill will place added costs through tax dollars on relatively low-priced, scientifically proven, dietary nutritional supplements ... In a time when Americans are seeking more alternative, preventative healthcare solutions instead of relying on expensive drugs, this bill not only threatens businesses that manufacture supplement products but the American consumer who is now seeking ways to improve  health before they spending money on doctors visits and prescriptions. Organizations such as the Life Extension Foundation manufacture highly effective nutritional supplements under strict pharmaceutical grade, FDA standards and are marketed under some of the most stringent restrictions placed on any products sold anywhere in the world.

At first I was confused as to whether this was supposed to be something the author wanted me to support or oppose.  My gut instinct is that anything which "restricts access" (code for "regulates") supplements is a good thing and to be supported, but the tone of the letter implied opposition.

So, with a sigh, I plowed ahead and read the whole damn thing.

Yeah, this turned out to be a missive from a pro-supplement lobbyist trying to gin up opposition to a bill which would indeed improve the shoddy-to-nonexistent regulation of the "Dietary Supplement" industry.  The bill was, to his credit, introduced by one John McCain.  And it would be a very good thing if it were to pass. 

I was going to expand with a detailed exposition on the minimal regulation of the supplements industry, 90% of which are placebo and some of which are potentially dangerous, and how this bill would change that, but it turns out another highly prolific, well-known semi-pseudonymous blogger got there first.  I don't think I can improve on what he wrote, so I'll just give you the link and let you read it yourself.  Key graf:
The bill has a number of good features. One part that I like is that the DSSA mandates that all adverse events be reported to the FDA, including non-serious ones ... it also includes expanded power for the FDA to issue cease distribution and notification order requiring that the manufacturer cease sales and marketing of the supplement in question. It also provides a mechanism for a hearing within ten days for the manufacturer to defend itself against the charges. After the hearing, the FDA may then issue a formal recall if it finds adequate evidence that the supplement is unsafe. While it is true that the DSHEA does currently allow the FDA to ban supplements, it does not, as I understand it, give the FDA the power to issue a rapid order to cease distribution or to mandate a recall this quickly, nor does it require supplement manufacturers to register with the FDA. All in all, it is a welcome modification of a very bad law. Although it does not go far enough, it is a bill that supporters of science-based medicine should support.
That was pretty much my reaction, too.  Let your congressperson know.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I get all that, but it also doesn't excuse the fact that the FDA tried in 1980's to ban fish oil and CoQ-10 because of their "danger." I fear the unread publics blind faith in these supplements, but I also fear lobbyists for the pharmaceutical companies and their effects on the FDA.