FDA and Supplements
This is an interesting article from Medscape about the FDA not being tough enough on supplements, specifically on the information included with them. Americans spend gazillions of dollars every year on pills and other things that promise the world, and it increasingly seems like a racket. People with cancer may be especially vulnerable to thse false promises. Who wouldn't want to believe that taking extract of wart hog (or whatever) will keep the cancer away?
Here it is:
Visit us online at www.MedPageToday.com
FDA Supplement Guidance Not Strict Enough, MD Says
By Emily P. Walker, Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today Reviewed by January 26, 2012
A | A | A | A
An FDA proposal to require dietary supplement manufacturers to submit data proving their product is safe doesn't go far enough, according to a physician writing in the New England Journal of Medicine.
More than 100 million Americans spend more than $28 billion on vitamins, minerals, herbal ingredients, amino acids and other natural products in the form of dietary supplements each year, "assuming they are both safe and effective," wrote Pieter A. Cohen, MD, of Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance.
But they have no assurance that the products are safe because FDA regulation of supplements is too weak, Cohen wrote in a Perspective piece.
By law, ingredients that were used and sold in supplements prior to 1994 can be marketed without any proof that they are safe or effective. But under a law called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), manufacturers of any ingredient introduced after 1994 must provide the FDA with evidence supporting "a reasonable expectation of safety."
Cohen said that part of the law "has thus far not been enforced."
Since DSHEA became law more than 15 years ago, the number of supplements on the market has gone from 4,000 to more than 55,000. Since 1994, the FDA has received proper notification for 170 new supplement ingredients, "undoubtedly a small fraction of the ingredients for which safety data should have been submitted," Cohen said.
The FDA has mounted a new effort to discourage the sale and use of nutritional supplements that contain ingredients that are regulated as drugs. Last year, the agency issued draft guidance meant to inform supplement manufacturers about what information they must submit to the FDA, including spelling out when an ingredient is considered old and when it's considered new. (A synthetically produced replica of a botanical product, for instance, would be considered new).
In addition, the FDA is proposing that the guidance call for in vitro, animal, and long-term tolerability testing for supplements that would be marketed at higher doses than those historically ingested.
"The FDA's guidance provides a thoughtful framework for evaluating the safety of new ingredients and if implemented it would lead to substantial improvement in safety," Cohen wrote, but he said he didn't think the FDA goes far enough.
He said under the guidance, companies can use historical data (instead of clinical trials) to prove that a supplement is safe, and Cohen said that the FDA can't assess the safety of new products scientifically without experimental data.
Cohen also said that under the guidance, manufacturers would not be required to submit both favorable and unfavorable data to the FDA, so they could cherry-pick only positive data to submit.
The dietary supplement industry largely opposes the draft regulation.
One opponent is the Natural Products Association, whose 1,900 members include small health food stores and large supplement manufacturers. The group submitted its official response to the FDA's proposal in November and said the agency is "overstepping" and that the rules would have a "chilling effect" on the dietary supplement industry.
"The draft guidance as currently written sets up inappropriate barriers to market entry, imposes food additive criteria, and requires multiple ... notifications beyond those required by law," the group wrote.Cohen said it's true that the proposed requirements would impose similar standards on supplements and food additives.
"Industry advocates are correct insofar as DSHEA does not hold established (pre-1994) supplement ingredients to the same safety standards as food additives: a chemical preservative sprayed inside a can of tomato soup or the purple dye in Jell-O requires much more evidence of safety than ingredients used in supplements," Cohen wrote.
Cohen urged the FDA to not change its proposal because of protests from industry.
"If the FDA succumbs to industry pressure, the public health consequences will be significant, as hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to turn to new supplements to sustain their health and treat their ailments," he said.
The FDA is accepting comments on the draft guidance until Feb. 1.