Under the Adverse Event Reporting (AER) bill before Congress, dietary supplements could eventually be taken off the over-the-counter status. In this day of offhand and frivolous lawsuits, Congress is poised to pass legislation that would allow private citizens to sue the supplement manufacturers, and possibly the marketplaces as well, for health related issues allegedly caused or aggravated by dietary supplements. Industry reporting of “adverse events” in a very formal way would also be a part of this package, much more complicated and detailed than that of the present requirements. The industry and the distributor could be held responsible in a court of law for the use or abuse of these supplements. This is akin to suing the butcher because I choked on a piece of steak, or maybe suing my barber because I’m not on the cover of G.Q. magazine. Ridiculous!
Given the circumstances of the proposed legislation, it may be fair to say that the parties responsible in bringing this issue out into the public and legislator spotlight are misguided, misinformed and ignorant. They fail to see the big picture, and the big picture is that the nutritional supplement industry will possibly be decimated with the passage of this bill. Along with Congress’ arrogant “bull in a china shop” attitude toward “protecting” the private sector, they are on course to remove our freedom of choice in health-related matters. Another real danger here is that the legislators are apt to accept the currently proposed AER bill because certain entities (Senator Dick Durbin) have threatened to re-introduce the issue upon defeat and include increasingly damaging restrictions to affect the industry. This is not about our protection. It is really about obtaining votes from an uninformed public by politicizing a nonexistent danger.
The AER bill before Congress is not a new issue. A very similar bill was defeated before the California Assembly in August of 2004. Many of the aforementioned reasons logically came into debate at that time. Wisely, the bill was seen for what it really is and was soundly turned away. The recent reasoning in Washington is that State-by-State regulating of nutritional supplements is practically non-existent, and when given the opportunity, as in California in 2004, “small-time” lawmakers from these States will completely botch the chance to adequately “protect” the average clueless consumer from this “real danger”.
Despite the resistance from Robert Brackett, director of the Center for Food Safety and Nutrition (CFSAN) at the Food and Drug Administration, Washington presses on. Mr. Brackett stated, in so many words, that there is existing and sufficient regulatory authority already in place through the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). He further stated through testifying before Congress that the current administration has no plans to change current policy. He believes in the rights of the private citizen to make their own informed health choices when it comes to supplements.
The general manager for NSF International, Kathleen Jordan, testified at the same hearing before Congressional lawmakers that the development of the Dietary Supplement Certification Program speaks volumes for informing and allowing consumers adequate protection from the unregulated sale of supplements. The non-profit and non-government organization is leading the way in sane and fair ideas like the recently developed NSF/ANSI Standard 173, which ensures proper nutrient count and identification of contents. On one point, everyone seems to be in agreement. That is, tighter control of anabolic steroids that were once contained in products marketed as “sports supplements”. The misuse of the term “supplement” in this case is one of the reasons that people are confused on the difference between dangerous substances like steroids and harmless nutrient supplements like vitamins, minerals and herbs.
Most people who take vitamins and supplements are on their self-imposed schedule that is usually based on the recommended daily allowance (RDA). I take vitamins and supplements every day and the amounts I take are based on the RDA, and the recommendations of my physician. In other words, I have supplements in my system all the time, as I routinely stay on schedule with this. If I were to believe that RDAs of vitamins, minerals and herbs would adversely affect my health in any way, I would stop taking them immediately. Many people that hear of this bill before Congress are going to believe that a real danger does exist just because it is at issue. Others, who inevitably experience failing health in one form or another, will also remember that a dietary supplement debate raged on for years.
If the outcome of the legislation is to allow frivolous lawsuits to ensue, they will surface, even if the supplements have absolutely nothing to do with their ills. The eventual outcome, sadly, is predictable. Every ailment known to man will be blamed on these harmless supplements, the industry will be forced to regulate in order to protect their bottom line, and you won’t be able to get dietary supplements without a prescription from your MD. When you then drive to your local drug store and are forced to pay hundreds of dollars for mere dietary supplements, remember that you had this one chance to voice your opinion by writing, calling or emailing your Senator or Congressman.
Fax Senator Dick Durbin at 202-228-0400, Fax Senators Tom Harkin at 202-224-9369 and Orrin Hatch at 202-224-6331Fax Senator Michael Enzi, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, at 202-228-0359. Tell them that you demand the freedom to make your own health related and nutritional supplements decisions. The truth is this: The AER bill is wrong! It is wrong for the private citizen and it is wrong to the dietary supplement industry. It is wrong for America!