According to a July 7, 2011 report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality, government spending on healthcare has been on the rise since at least 1990 in the world’s leading economies.
I am sure that the FDA is aware of the study entitled, “Effect of Selected Dietary Supplements on Health Care Reduction” that was commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance (DSEA) and updated in 2007, which found that only four specific supplements, alone — calcium with vitamin D (bone health); folic acid (neural tube defects); omega-3 fats (heart health); and lutein with zeaxanthin (eye health) — could reduce healthcare costs by over $24 billion.
These are only direct cost savings, and savings directly related to them, however. If we were able to add all indirect costs and downstream cost-of-care burden projections to these data, and if we were able to assess savings from other critical dietary supplements — such as CoQ10, multivitamins, brain health ingredients (such as Huperzine A), liver health nutrients (such as milk thistle and Picrorhiza kurroa), joint health nutrients (such as biologically active silicon), and so on —- it is likely that the ultimate healthcare savings to Americans and to society would be … staggering.
Therefore, it is mystifying to me, and to many others, why the FDA would choose, 17 years after the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, to re-interpret the laws governing dietary supplements as evident in the agency’s “Draft Guidance for Industry: Dietary Supplements: New Dietary Ingredient Notifications and Related Issues” issued in July.
It is baffling as to why the FDA would, as evident in the regulatory and policy viewpoints underpinning this guidance, seek to use wholly new interpretations of “what is a dietary supplement ingredient,” “what is a dietary supplement,” “what is a new dietary ingredient,” for example, as bases for what is obvious is its new supplement review and enforcement position.
Based on the FDA’s own statements and examples in the guidance, along with a simple exercise of extrapolating from what FDA is saying to what it is they apparently intend, a vast majority of the supplements sold in the U.S. would be drastically affected by review, implementation and enforcement activities along the lines outlined in this document.
Because the guidance is for industry, not for the agency. The agency is already heading down a path that would eviscerate the dietary supplement industry and would cause lasting, irreparable harm to American consumers and healthcare in the United States.
The harm would come from “dumbed down” formulations that exclude innovative natural ingredients that will have received objection notices from the FDA. The harm would come from whole swaths of products being eliminated by responsible supplement companies that cannot afford the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars that would be required in order to perform toxicology tests and to develop safety dossiers on ingredients that are already proven to be safe. The harm would come from companies reverting their supplement formulations to antiquated processing and ingredient compositions that were in place prior to 1994.
Neither American consumers nor the dietary supplement industry are going to take this unconscionable attempt by the FDA to, via various NDI-related side doors, effectively re-write DSHEA, maim the health-food industry and drastically reduce consumer choice sitting down.
In fact, a number of consumer grassroots advocacy groups and initiatives are rallying to the cause, including:
- Citizens for Health (http://www.citizens.org);
- Alliance for Natural Health (http://www.anh-usa.org);
- Your Voice for Health (http://www.yvfh.org/about);
- Operation Pushback (http://www.operationpushback.com); and others.
I invite all of you to join with and support the critical work being done and about to be rolled out over the coming weeks.
While the fight to pass the Proxmire Bill defined the struggle for health freedom in the 1970s, and the battle for DSHEA was our signature victory in the 1990s, our war now is to protect dietary supplements from the FDA’s concerted efforts, behind the NDI guidance, to rip apart the health-food industry and to make America profoundly less healthy and more sick.
While our first campaign will take a couple of months, FDA has made it clear that it is operating under vastly misguided and adversarial interpretations of the laws governing dietary supplements than given to them by Congress and the American people.
Our defining health-freedom battle of the first century of this new millennium has begun.