Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More about steroids and DSHEA

The fact that CNN removed the video and corrected its text report on DSHEA by substituting some of the original quotes with quotes from US regulatory agencies adequately confirms that my original criticism was both factual and confirmable. Make no mistake; it is currently illegal - under DSHEA - to put undeclared ingredients like steroids and steroid precursors in a dietary supplement. The fact that some outlaws have made supplements containing illegal drugs - without declaring them on their labels - is not a reflection on the legally operating dietary supplement industry; any more than a drug smuggler hiding contraband in a teddy bear is representative of all teddy bear manufacturers or a hollowed-out book is representative of all publishers. My contention is that steroids are often being deliberately and illegally added to “spike” certain dietary supplements, which are not "contaminated" in the sense that the substance was not accidently added. The addition of an undeclared active ingredient is "adulteration" under DSHEA, whether deliberate or accidental, and adulteration is quite clearly illegal. The FDA has full power to remove adulterated substances from the market under DSHEA and other laws; there is absolutely no legal protection for these unlawful “supplements”. It’s not a law’s fault if a government regulatory agency fails to vigorously enforce it, despite having clear authority in that area to act. Yet that’s precisely the kind of misdirected criticism that some critics of the industry propose: blaming weak enforcement on a perceived legal emasculation which simply isn’t there. This, despite the fact that the dietary supplement industry’s legislative allies have introduced bills to add funding to the FDA specifically so the agency could enforce DSHEA more strictly; which is additional proof that the industry does not avoid reasonable regulation and in fact prefers it to false claims of being “unregulated”. The Dietary Supplement and Nonprescription Drug Consumer Protection Act now requires all serious adverse events to be reported to the FDA within 15 business days. The supplement industry also supported this Act, knowing that it had to prove the safety of its products and show responsibility to the public and to lawmakers. The fact that supplement manufacturers supported the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 (HR 3886), banning androstene-type substances, should also reflect favorably on their commitment to responsible regulation and a desire to protect the public health. Even that has not quieted some critics. It is precisely an industry revulsion to outlaws posing as legitimate manufacturers that has repeatedly prompted industry support for additional government regulation. Industries do not typically request more regulation, so this stance should be more notable. Still, in my opinion it is illogical to blame a law for the actions of outlaws. Outlaws fill a perceived need at a high price, just like other drug dealers, but to consider their products to be accidentally “contaminated” is naïve, at best. Under authority granted to it by DSHEA, and after years of industry prodding, the FDA has only recently rolled out mandatory current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs), requiring safety and identity testing. There are a number of manufacturers already certified as operating under independently certified GMPs, giving consumers a high assurance against inadvertent contamination. Steroids and anabolic steroid precursors are currently regulated as prescription drugs. So no dietary supplement manufacturer has any legitimate, legal reason to use these controlled substances in any of their products, whether on or off the label, making accidental contamination quite implausible. The FDA has not claimed that DSHEA blocked its ability to regulate dietary supplements. Actually, several FDA commissioners have testified to Congress that they already had adequate enforcement powers under DSHEA; and that was before the introduction of additional regulation such as cGMPs, adverse event reporting, the anabolic steroid precursor ban, etc. It is irresponsible to continue to echo allegations that have already been disproved, taking on faith the word of cheaters who have been revealed and are trying to point the blame elsewhere. It’s ludicrous to try to shift blame on a law passed some 13 years ago, a law that specifically prohibits adulterated products. I think that the baseball player’s union leader successfully did just that, knowing that he had a receptive audience in a leading DSHEA critic. But the resulting publicity, repeating the tired old complaint of supplements being “unregulated”, does not constitute any form of real evidence, flying in the face of so many contrary facts. If you are still in doubt, don’t take my word for it. Please read the various pieces of legislation or check the websites of the regulating agencies and see for yourself. I have done both and base my writings solely on these demonstrable facts and reputable references, including official government agencies.

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