NY Attorney General—and Now Thirteen Other AGs—Take Their Assault on Supplements to Congress

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United States Capitol Building, Washington, DCThey seem determined to treat supplements like drugs. Problem is, no one will pay billions for FDA approval, and most of your supplements will disappear from the shelves. Major Action Alert!

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has again upped the ante in his assault on the supplement industry. We recently reported how Schneiderman used a poorly designed—and now completely discredited—test to challenge some herbal supplements. But egg on his face hasn’t slowed him down.

Late last week, he sent a letter co-signed by thirteen other AGs asking Congress to “launch a comprehensive congressional inquiry in the herbal supplement industry” because “a current state investigation has raised serious concerns about the marketing and safety of the herbal supplements regularly consumed by millions of Americans.” As we and others have shown, the only concerns the investigation actually raised were about the scientific incompetence of the New York AG’s office. Even a recent compromise with GNC, one of the companies Mr. Schneiderman investigated, which agreed to voluntarily begin using DNA barcoding on its products, was apparently not enough to slow down the crusading AG.

The letter calls for certain congressional subcommittees, in conjunction with the FDA, to conduct an investigation that would consider tightening supplement regulations, including new rules regarding ingredients, labeling guidelines, and manufacturing practices—all supposedly to enhance quality assurance, in an industry that already has an exemplary track record for quality—and ramping up existing controls, supposedly to ensure the safety and effectiveness of finished products sold by retailers.

In itself this does not sound objectionable. But keep in mind that virtually all of what they’re asking for is already covered by existing federal regulations. Supplements are a highly regulated industry. The only remaining regulation they could possibly have in mind is to subject supplements to the multi-billion-dollar FDA drug safety and efficacy approval process. The NY AG knows full well that no one will ever pay for that since supplements, being natural, cannot generally be patented.

Let’s not forget the following:

  • Current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs) for supplements could not be more stringent. Laws to guarantee safe products are already on the books, and it is up to the FDA to enforce those laws. FDA memos, retrieved through Freedom of Information Act requests, show that the agency has, at least in the past, deliberately refused to enforce laws in the hope that something would occur which was so bad that current supplement law would be abandoned in favor of a drug-type regulation scheme. If once in a great while some bad actors fail to meet current high standards, and the FDA fails to hold them accountable, this should not reflect on the entire industry. The FDA already has the power it needs, so passing more regulations would simply be redundant.
  • The testing regimens which the supplement industry are held to under cGMPs are one reason that supplements have such a proven track record of safety—more so than food, not to mention FDA-approved pharmaceuticals. One report from the Government Accountability Office found that there were an average of 1,575 adverse event reports (AERs) related to supplements per year between 2008 and 2011. When you factor in that about half of Americans (157 million people) take supplements every day, this means that only one-hundredth of one percent of all supplement users ever experience any problems at all. It is also worth noting that AERs are not concrete evidence of supplements being a factor in an adverse event, but simply a possible correlation. By contrast, in 2008, there were 526,527 AERs from pharmaceuticals—488 times more than the number of supplement AERs. Our counterparts at ANH-Europe found that UK residents were about as likely to get struck by lightning as die from taking dietary supplements.
  • Because cGMPs already cover the lion’s share of what the AG’s letter is asking for, what Mr. Schneiderman and the other AGs really seem to be after—as evidenced by their use of specific language like “safety and efficacy”—is a regulatory regime that would subject supplements to the same pre-approval process that pharmaceutical drugs must go through. An economic analysis ANH-USA conducted in response to a less-stringent regulatory proposal than the one Mr. Schneiderman seems to be asking for found that between 22,240 and 41,700 dietary supplements would disappear from the market as a result. This hurts consumers far more than it helps them.

Given these considerations, one wonders what is motivating Mr. Schneiderman and his coalition of AGs in the first place. Is he trying to curry favor with the drug industry, in the hope that this will help him finance future campaigns—for governor, perhaps? There will be a huge political upside for him if Congress decides to act. It will create a media frenzy, with the NY AG’s name headlining all the stories, without his having to make a viable case for his position—something he has so far been unable or unwilling to do—or explain how any of this benefits New York’s taxpayers.

The possibility exists, of course, that he is simply misinformed. This is disturbing, since his initial tests have been completely invalidated. With no safety violation and no evidence of fraud, the NY AG’s office might have withdrawn its case and issued a mea culpa. If the entire process was predicated on faulty data, which appears to be the case, the AG needs to explain how his office could have acted so rashly and with such gross incompetence. Instead—and without a scintilla of scientific evidence or a single public health violation—he has redoubled his attack.

One thing is certain: consumers must speak out in a clear voice to tell congressional leaders not to cave in to these specious demands and to preserve consumer access to important dietary supplements.

Action Alert! Send a message to the senators who received this letter and urge them to protect our access to quality supplements! Please send your message immediately!

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Share.
  • J D

    Lay off nutritional supplements!!

  • tom wyman

    agriculture should use then money it spends on fighting progress for updating
    the product.

  • Dr. J.J. Stiglich

    get rid of the DAMNED PHARMA INDUSTRIES!!!!!!!!!!

  • J A Phelan

    I am highly disappointed in the stand of the attorney general if NY State. One more freedom of choice…………………………..or are we to be left with no choice in our health and what we choose to take. My idea is let me choose what put into my body, not the FDA, not the big pharmaceutical companies and not even my doctors. I prefer Naturopaths and Homeopaths. My body was not meant for all the drugs pushed on to us. Asking you to stand down Mr. Attorney General of the State of NY.

  • Connie D

    I just so wish that the Government would STOP trying to control every thing a person does. They really need to get a life, since they are so unhappy doing what they now do. Give us a
    bloody break, enough is enough!!

  • Martha Hauer

    Leave my supplements alone.

  • Marilyn Katz

    Protect my access to quality supplements immediately. I depend on them and believe the AG’s who support this have been bought off by the prescription drug companies!!!
    FOLLOW THE MONEY!!!

  • Nico Couture

    When Government have gotten so big that the politicians within cant find anything better to do than to further destroy American health by adding more bureaucratic bullshit to things like vitamins who only help people. The saddest part is the people leading this ridiculous charge are lawyers and business men who know nothing about health and wellness, the human body, nutrition or the supplements they are aiming to attack. Its a wonder how this idea even gained a foothold and anyone who cannot see the tyranny behind this is part of the problem. too many shepards and not enough sheep. Shut it down…

  • Debra

    Unfortunately, as much as I love my nutritional supplement choices… I HIGHLY agree there are a ton of predators MISLABELING and OVER CHARGING just because they can… If I’m going to pay top dollar I want to know I’m getting top dollar ingredients. Simple as that. I can’t even trust products I buy from the Health Food stores as there’s no Regulation. sorry

  • The problem seems to be that all the government “people” will benefit from this…..it all comes down to money. Greedy, money hungry government people. I hate the USA more than ever because of all the greed. If I could move I surely would. The FDA is almost a joke!!

    What has happened to our freedom?????

  • Steven Schwartz

    After a severe injury to my ankle in 2003, I developed a bone infection and was able to prevent the amputation of my left leg below the knee by taking megdoses of Vitamin C in ascorbate form.

    If this was not available and I had to rely on the advice of my physician alone, I would have had the
    leg removed.

    Thanks to Gary Null’s information about Ester-C, I was able to stop the severe infection.

    Due to the use of this supplement, I was able to regain the use of my leg and ankle.

    Please don’t take freedom of choice away from us.

  • John C Lipscomb II

    Represent the citizens of the US for once;instead of big Pharma and the AMA.

  • Ryan Christensen

    Please protect our access to supplements. In a world where we are always bombarded by drugs that have terrible side effects, supplements provide consumers with a safe natural alternative. I don’t know why supplements are being attacked, besides a single unverified test. I take supplements for Lyme Disease and they help me a lot, with no side effects. A lot of people rely on supplements for a natural means to remedy themselves, so please protect them. Drugs can be dangerous and can have extreme and sometimes fatal side effects. Natural supplements are a far safer alternative. A lot of people are counting on you, so please protect natural supplements.

    Thank you,

    Ryan Christensen

  • It’s clear what’s going on here – they want control over CBD oil.

  • Donna Segreti Reilly

    Dr. Mark Stengler, Incinitas, CA, is an expert on this subject. DNA is NOT the way to test whether or not a supplement contains what it’s manufacturer purports it to contain. Call Dr. Mark Stengler, nationally and internationally known doctor of integrative medicine. His number is 760-274-2377.

    Sincerely,

    Donna Segreti Reilly

  • DoctorJWood

    What’s the matter? Aren’t you getting enough of a kickback from supplement companies? Good grief. Back off of the push to regulate supplements.

  • Stop these scum Bags now

  • Keith Manning

    ANH-USA in conjunction with other stakeholders should file a very public lawsuit against the AG and the State of New York for fraud and misrepresentation not in the best interests of consumers. Make him explain to reporters what kind of scam he’s attempting to foist on consumers.

  • Anna Cavallo

    Please, help us protect our access to quality supplements! We want to be free to choose which method we want to use to improve our health!

  • David J. Ogle MD

    Dear Readers,
    The story never changes…just the actors…and all on behalf of their special interest constituency–the pharmaceutical industry which continually vies to take over and completely control access to nutraceuticals across the globe. This has been the pattern forever and will continue forever until there is no alternative unless common citizens stand up and tell the corrupt judiciary and Congress in America to stand-down.

  • Carol A. Russell

    Rather than being Guinea Pigs for the corrupt Drug Companies, we must safeguard our health with natural alternatives and prevent chronic adverse effects BIG PHARMA generates.

  • pat tyson

    the earth’s bounty should be free

  • John Solomon

    I don’t want to pay $500 for fish oil and multiple vitamins.

  • Chikur Heart

    Lets get the people of the commons healthy and get the economy evenly distributed as well since it is the commons that produces products and offers services, they should be rewarded, not enslaved. The vast creativity and productivity increase that would come about from energetic, happy, healthy commons would make the world thrive instead of the death spiral its leaders seem determined to engineer for profits, control and entitlement for the few. Those few have no real idea what they are missing because they do not have a reference of a world based upon Love. They live for and by fear and think it their friend with which to control the world for their own well being. They do not realize that they are not separate from the world they exploit, undermine and blight. If this is being read by one of you, please take note that you are mistaken if you believe that you can hurt, deceive and drain the life energy from others and not harm yourself in the process. I want you to heal and experience the joy, peace and Love that is only available without defense and attack. You probably think I’m crazy for even suggesting the suspension of defense and attack, but I am planting a seed in your mind that may someday germinate when all is falling apart for you.

  • Dorothy Tharsing

    Please protect my access to quality supplements. I have been using dietary supplements most of my 67 years and am much healthier than most others my age. I believe supplements to be safe and effective. According to statistics pharmaceuticals are way more dangerous.

  • karen

    I would like to know the names and state of the AG that are also part of the assault on supplements.

    • The letter can be found here. it includes the other AGs who’ve signed onto the letter.

  • Julianne Ramaker

    It is clear to me that this attack on natural supplements is yet another case of elected officials working for their corporate sponsors – in this case the pharmaceutical industry – instead of doing what is best for all Americans. Millions of us rely upon natural supplements because the health and pharmaceutical industries have made health care and prescriptions unaffordable. And, using natural remedies some of which have been used effectively for hundreds of years is simply better than many of the drugs being foisted on the public.

    Testing regimens for natural supplements are stringent already which is why supplements have such a proven track record of safety. One simply cannot say the same thing for pharmaceuticals … all one has to do is listen to the list of “side effects” in commercials for various advertised drugs.

    Mr. Schneiderman repeatedly uses the phrase, “safety and efficacy” and wants natural dietary supplements to go through the same pre-approval process that pharmaceutical drugs must go through, but there is no evidence that these supplements are causing Americans harm.

    There is another agenda at work herd and either Mr. Schneiderman’s motives are suspect or he is relying on false information. It appears that the initial tests used as a basis for this have been completely invalidated and there is no safety violation and no evidence of fraud.

    How much harm has been cause by natural supplements compared to how many have been caused by the pharmaceutical interactions or insufficiently tested (does anyone remember Thalidomide which was FDA approved?)

    This attack on natural dietary supplements is either a witch-hunt, or it is politically and profit based. In either case it needs to stop!

  • Graburn Lynne

    As one who has taken supplements for over sixty years without a single adverse effect, I have found no basis for changing the approval requirements for supplements. Unless this is an approach designed to elicit campaign contributions from the competing pharmaceutical companies, you are wasting taxpayer money (MY money) to perform a function that is unnecessary and anti-competitive. Your proposed regulations are NOT in the public interest. But maybe in the PRIVATE interest of big Pharma?

    Please don’t do this!

  • Patricia Miller

    I feel it is totally wrong for the government to think they can regulate our supplements. They need to keep their nose where it belongs. People try to stay healthy but the government insists we get sick in order to control us. How sad. Watch who you vote for next.

  • Eileen Ordway

    Stop the synthetic production of our natural vitamins and minerals found in plants free of pesticides and herbicides through genetic engineering. The synthetic production of natural substances found in nature is the short-sighted, greed-driven, and outright hostile intent of drug companies pumping out harmful products with side effects causing the same symptoms they claim their synthetically designed drugs treat. End the forcing of our citizens to take synthetically created drugs by companies with track records of hiding the dangerous and life-threatening adverse effects of their creations done in the lab instead or our citizens having the freedom to use compounds found in nature’s laboratory.

  • sharon

    I cannot bring up the Take Action page when I open your website through the email. It immediately goes to a Yahoo page every time. Can you rectify this issue on your side?

  • vince

    Perhaps the same pharma shills should demand an investigation into GMO foods and the latest report that a popular weed killer causes cancer. Oh never mind these guys only care about thier next donations. The stench that permeates modern medicine

  • Joseph Canha

    Get rid of the “DAMNED PHARMA INDUSTRIES” I am quite sure this idea of yours of trying to suppress the use of herbal supplements was not one of campaign issues. Being the Attorney General I challenge you to show any suits against herbalist. On the other hand millions of dollars have been paid by the pharmaceutical industries due to the harm caused by their lack of respect of human life versus eagerness of filling their coffers, with the use of their chemicals that I deem that you seem to support so much. Dear Mr Attorney General of New York State take care of the justice of your State and leave our healthcare at our own will.

  • At the end of last December I had a tremendous attack of vertigo, my blood pressure was very high and my left leg and foot were numb due to bad circulation which I have had since I know myself. I have always eaten very healthy and I am slim. I am almost 74 years old and I have walked for an hour almost every day of the year for many years. I haven’t had healthcare practitioner for many, many years. Allopathic practitioners and their medicine get me very confused. For example, how can they prescribe whatever for my blood pressure if their diagnostic is: “Reason for high blood pressure unknown” They do not attack the root of the problem. It was very important for me to find out the reason for my high blood pressure. I went to a clinic of integrative medicine. The beginning of my treatment was one week of acupuncture. On my first day I went home with no vertigo, no heaviness in the middle of the chest, no stiff neck, not so tired and a little less numbness on my leg and foot. Also during that week the cramps on the left leg and foot reduced.The pain on my shoulders was gone. I was about deaf from my left ear. Now I can put the phone on my left ear and carry a conversation. Also my soprano voice was about gone and came back with some changes on my diet. I had some allergy issues that needed to be addressed with some change on my diet not taking pills. After that week they started administering my herbs. I went along with this treatment of acupuncture and herbs feeling better every day that went by and now I am at the end of my treatment. They found out the reason for my high blood pressure. My blood pressure lowered and now I know what to do to keep it so. My circulation is fine. I increased the time allowed for exercising. All this at my expense! I feel good! Isn’t it enough to be forced to pay for an insurance that will not serve any purpose what-so-ever, once that the insured can’t choose his/her kind of treatment? Now, you want to interfere in our freedom to choose the healthcare we believe in? Furthermore, where does this fits in: “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty”.