Important Players in Congress
The following is list of congresspersons who have played a role in the regulation of natural health generally, and DSHEA in particular over the past few years. This list is certainly not exhaustive. We encourage you to research individual congresspersons and candidates at www.yourcadidatesyourhealth.org to see if particular candidates have taken clear positions on natural health issues.
Rep. Burton (R-IN) is widely considered a strong supporter of dietary supplements and natural healthcare, generally. He is a member of Congress’ Dietary Supplement Caucus and the Complementary & Alternative Medicine Caucus. In 2001, he chaired a committee hearing titled “Six Years After DSHEA,” in which he stated, “My colleagues in Congress and I will continue to protect Americans’ rights to access dietary supplements.”
Rep. DeFazio (D-OR) is a strong supporter of dietary supplements and natural healthcare. He is a member of Congress’ Dietary Supplement Caucus and the Complementary & Alternative Medicine Caucus. Along with Rep. Ron Paul, DeFazio submitted a joint statement to Rep. Burton’s “Six Years After DSHEA” committee in 2002, strongly supporting DSHEA and the rights of consumers to access dietary supplements without FDA interference. He was one of the prime sponsors of the original Access to Medical Treatment Act, which if passed, would have given consumers greater access to health care practitioners of their choice.
Rep. Dingell (D-MI) is no fan of DSHEA as presently written and implemented. He has sponsored unsuccessful legislation over the past several years that, if passed, would have repealed major pieces of DSHEA, and that would have granted the FDA greater authority over dietary supplements. He has been quoted in numerous sources as saying about DSHEA, “I would like to repeal the whole sorry mess.”
Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) is a member of the Dietary Supplement Caucus, and was prime sponsor of legislation that would require mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods.
Rep. Paul (R-TX) is a well-known supporter of health freedom. He has been the prime sponsor of the Health Freedom Protection Bill (H.R. 2117), which would give dietary supplement manufacturers the ability to make broader claims about the helpful, curative effects of their products.
Rep. Towns (D-NY) is a member of the Dietary Supplement Caucus, and the prime sponsor of H.R. 1107, which would allow certain dietary supplements to qualify for reimbursement under IRS rules pertaining to Health Spending Accounts and Flex Spending Accounts.
Rep. Waxman (D-CA) co-sponsored with Rep. Dingell legislation that, if passed, would have gutted major portions of DSHEA and given the FDA significantly greater authority over dietary supplements. He has been critical of the dietary supplement industry in sub-committee hearings on DSHEA.
When it comes to natural health and DSHEA, there may be no one more important and controversial in Washington, D.C. than Sen. Durbin (D-IL). Durbin has co-sponsored a number of DSHEA-revisions, including the Adverse Event Reporting bill that became law in 2006. He has made critical remarks in perhaps every hearing on DSHEA that’s been held in the past 8 years. He is largely credited or blamed as one of the driving forces behind the Adverse Event Reporting law.
Some of the quotes attributed to Sen. Durbin about DSHEA include the following:
• “[The] FDA has fallen down on the job. [Regardless] increasing surveillance under the existing law is unlikely to occur.”
• “We need to make a couple of critical changes in DSHEA.” [referring to mandatory adverse event reporting and some form of pre-market approval].
In fairness to Sen. Durbin, the focus of his hostility toward dietary supplements has been largely on stimulants and steroids. In his comments leading up to the AER law, he said this: “[A]ll I would ask in my bill would be that supplements which cause an adverse effect would be reported to the government. We preserve the DSHEA assumption that supplements are safe, except for steroids and stimulants.”
It is likely that Sen. Durbin’s influence will increase in an Obama administration.
Sen. Harkin (D-IA) has been a long-time proponent of natural health, dietary supplements and DSHEA. He is a member of the Dietary Supplement Caucus, and is credited with resurrecting DSHEA from possible repeal and other emasculating revisions. He was co-sponsor of S. 770, which would allow dietary supplements to be purchased with food stamps.
Sen. Hatch (R-UT) has been a long-time proponent of natural health, dietary supplements and DSHEA. He is a member of the Dietary Supplement Caucus. Along with Sen. Harkin, he is credited with resurrecting DSHEA from possible repeal and other emasculating revisions. Also along with Sen. Harkin, he has co-sponsored S. 770, which would allow dietary supplements to be purchased with food stamps.
To the extent that Sen. Hatch has been concerned about implementation of DSHEA, he has been focused on the FDA’s failure to properly implement the law, rather than any failure of the law itself.
Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) was the prime sponsor of S. 1082, which passed the Senate in 2007, but has yet to make its way to the House. This bill represents one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation to affect the FDA in years. It includes provisions that would relax restrictions on the importation of drugs from overseas. The bill as passed by the Senate should not affect DSHEA; however, it would give the FDA significantly greater authority over foods and drugs generally.
Sen. Kennedy is also the Chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee. It’s been reported that just a month ago, he chaired a videoconference in which he called for an overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system. His health may also be an issue to watch. If he’s unable to continue as Chair of HELP, we will want to take note of who his replacement will be.