Senators Push Regulatory Assault on Vitamins

We need to take action, and we need to take action now. There is a movement in Congress to push through legislation that would restrict your freedom to use nutritional supplements, and could destroy the nutritional supplement industry-and, in the process, endanger your health.

Here is the problem. Reacting to the hysteria over ephedra, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D.-Ill.) has introduced S. 722, cosponsored by colleagues Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.), and Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.). The bill gives unprecedented power to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove nutritional supplements from the market. Here’s how:

  • It calls for a reporting system for adverse reactions to nutritional supplements.
  • It empowers the FDA to act on a single adverse reaction report and immediately take the product off the market while it is being investigated.
  • In addition, the FDA could force the manufacturer to undergo prohibitively costly safety analyses of the product, similar to what is required for new drugs.
  • Here’s a possible scenario. Mrs. Jones in Somewhere, USA, is taking a supplement containing vitamin C. One afternoon she has some diarrhea. She faints, falls in her bathroom, hits her head, and is hospitalized with a head injury.

    Believe it or not, an adverse reaction could be pinned on vitamin C. Based upon this single event, the FDA could at its discretion move to restrict sales of vitamin C throughout the entire country until an investigation proves that vitamin C did not cause Mrs. Jones’s problems.

    Smokescreen of ‘Safety’

    The bill also gives the FDA license to require supplement manufacturers to submit safety information that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, patterned on regulations required for new drugs.

    This is absurd. New drugs need rigorous safety testing because they are compounds that have never been ingested by human beings. The ubiquitous use and long history of safety of nutritional supplements are apparently irrelevant to the sponsors of this bill.

    The nutritional supplement industry arguably has the best product safety record of any industry in the country. According to Rep. Dan Burton (R.-Ind.), a maximum of 16 deaths were attributed to a nutritional supplement last year. (Excessive doses of ephedra were the suspect in the majority of these cases, and the supplement link was definitively proven in only a few of them.)

    Meanwhile, the FDA turns a blind eye to the 106,000 deaths from adverse effects of prescription drugs and the tens of thousands of deaths from aspirin and other over-the-counter drugs that occur every year.

    This isn’t about safety. It’s about control.

    Harmful Bill

    This bill is a good example of government irrationality.

    According to a 2002 report by Washington, D.C.,-based Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the use of antioxidants, folic acid, calcium, zinc, and other nutritional supplements could reduce the incidence of neural tube birth defects by 70%, hip fractures by at least 20%, and sick days caused by infectious diseases by 50%-Heart disease, stroke, cataracts, macular degeneration, some types of cancer-nutritional supplements have been shown to prevent or delay all these conditions and others.

    Furthermore, CRN reports that by delaying the onset of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and hip fracture alone, nutritional therapies could potentially save $89 billion a year in healthcare costs!

    Yet S. 722 would empower the FDA to dismantle the supplement industry and prevent you from receiving the astonishing benefits that only nutritional supplements can deliver.

    Immediate Action Needed

    The only way to stop this bill is for us to flood our elected representatives and senators with so many e-mails, faxes, and phone calls that they will be forced to say no to this bill.

    Grassroots Effectiveness

    Don’t underestimate the power of such a grassroots movement. Ten years ago, Health & Healing readers were instrumental in rallying the passing of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). Millions of letters were written to our congressmen and senators in support of this legislation-it generated more letters than any other issue in U.S. history. Because of DSHEA, which reduced the FDA’s power to block the production, sale, and use of natural substances, we have free access to herbs, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional supplements.

    An FDA Power Grab

    You may have read in the press that we need new laws because there is no regulation of nutritional supplements. This is simply not true. DSHEA gives the FDA tremendous regulatory power, and in fact, it already has the power to pull any supplement it feels is unsafe off the market.

    Yet because DSHEA also gives supplement manufacturers some autonomy, the FDA has attempted to circumvent it from day one. This agency fought hard against the passage of DSHEA ten years ago and, in a thinly veiled attempt to get rid of or amend it, has refused to act responsibly within its confines ever since.

    Time is of the essence. S. 722 has recently been referred to committee and may be tagged onto the Agriculture Appropriations Bill. We can and must act quickly to stop this legislation.

    Send a message to your senators today asking them to vote against S. 722. (See box for information.) If you’ve already done so, do it again. Tell your friends about this threat and encourage them to take action as well.

    If each one of you could commit to generating just a handful of e-mails, faxes, or phone calls, over a million messages would descend upon Washington. You may not realize how powerful a grassroots campaign like this can be, but our elected officials cannot ignore something of this magnitude.