Thursday, February 25, 2010

My response to Bill O’Reilly’s program “Suzanne Somers' 'No Spin' on Vitamins”

,On Friday, February 19, 2010, Bill O’Reilly discussed recent legislation introduced by Arizona Senator John McCain (the Dietary Supplement Safety Act; S.3002) to impose new regulations on dietary supplements (vitamins, etc.) with Suzanne Somers. He made several points that are quite reasonable: that there should be warnings on labels, that we should know what is in the products, that manufacturers should be registered with the FDA, that ingredients should be disclosed, and that the FDA should have recall authority. I heartily agree with these common sense statements but need to point out that these elements are already mandated by current federal regulations that simply may be inadequately enforced. As in other fields, a few shady operators ignore laws when profits can be made by cheating. The answer to the occasional scofflaw is strict enforcement of existing law; without enforcement, both current and new laws would be equally worthless. But Mr. McCain’s proposed new law will severely decimate law-abiding companies in a misguided effort to import an unpopular regulatory scheme from Canada that gives unelected government bureaucrats absolute power over already-regulated vitamin products. Canadians now cross the border to buy American vitamins because their own government arbitrarily delays entry of new products for years at a time, miserly approving only 42% of products that have been submitted with all the required safety and efficacy documentation. Current laws can accomplish Mr. O’Reilly’s goals, if they are enforced. Dietary supplement manufacturers are already registered with the government, are already required to submit label claims to the FDA, are already prohibited from making medical claims for dietary supplements, and are already required to identity-test and list all ingredients on product labels. Ingredients that have been on the market for many years are already pre-approved by the FDA and all new ingredients must be specially pre-approved before going to market. All mislabeled products are considered adulterated and subject to mandatory recall. A recent adverse event reporting law promptly lets the FDA know of virtually any problem requiring medical attention in order to trigger recalls and new label warnings, This does not sound like an unregulated industry, even if enforcement can be improved in some areas. What we don’t want is the FDA, an agency that is cozy with pharmaceutical interests, to have complete power over every new vitamin formula that is merely a variation of already-approved ingredients. That kind of permanent government takeover will strangle an important health industry that in a free market added jobs and exports during the recession. Vitamins help Americans meet basic nutritional needs in a cost-effective manner without government funding and may have actually decreased some Medicare spending, according to the conclusions of authoritative Lewin Group reports. Understand and enforce the current laws before proposing a virtual federal takeover of an industry that is law-abiding, has welcomed recent regulations that have empowered federal authority over it, and would suffer great harm from a huge increase in unnecessary government interference. Think about it: If you were driving on the highway at 55 miles per hour and occasionally some jerk speeds by at 90, would dropping the speed limit to 45 correct the problem? Of course not. It obviously makes more sense to station additional cops along that stretch of highway to enforce current traffic laws than to collectively punish all drivers. Why is enforcement of vitamin laws any different? Target the outlaws, not the innocent! Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA

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