Supplements Still in Peril


iStock_000008931495XSmallOver the past year, we fought four different Congressional bills that would have affected your access to supplements. In our Action Alert, we need your help to educate our lawmakers, most of whom know little or nothing about existing supplement regulation or why supplements are not drugs.

As successful as you have been in defending supplements on Capitol Hill this year, anti-supplement members of Congress are still playing on the offense. As Congressman Henry Waxman, one of the leaders of the group trying to turn supplements into drugs, once said that nothing is ever “settled for good” in Washington.

Of the four pieces of legislation below, only the Food Safety Bill is still an immediate threat and so far it keeps being delayed. But even the bad ideas you have defeated could easily come back.

  • Senator McCain’s Dietary Supplement Safety Act (S. 3002) is no longer supported by McCain himself, but cannot be formally withdrawn and so remains for this session.
  • The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 4173), which passed the House in late 2009, included a buried provision written in impossible-to-follow legalese that would have drastically expanded the powers of the Federal Trade Commission, powers that would have been used against supplements. Although you stopped it in the Senate and in conference committee, it could still be added to another bill.
  • The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510). You succeeded in getting language added that would protect us from sliding down a slippery slope toward harmonizing US standards for supplements with the irrationally restrictive European standards—under rules set by the global Codex Alimentarius. Other provisions of the bill we still oppose, but it has been sitting on the Senate calendar for ten months with no activity. One possibility is that it will emerge and be reconciled with the House bill in the very dangerous lame duck session after the fall elections, when defeated or retired legislators can take positions without worry about voter reaction.
  • The Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749). This is a terrible bill. It has passed the House, so the last chance to stop its toxic provisions is in the House–Senate Conference when it eventually comes. Among the worst provisions, it includes jail time—up to 10 years—for “misbranding” or “adulterating” supplements. And the definitions are very broad: “adulteration” includes recordkeeping violations, while “misbranding” includes citing peer-reviewed science about the benefits of a dietary supplement. This new threat of sanctions (only in the House bill, not the Senate’s) would give the FDA a hammer with which to threaten and coerce companies engaging in completely legal activities.

In the case of all the bills above, we have been successful so far. But we have been fighting in a defensive mode. If we stay only on the defense, we will eventually lose. It is clear that we need to take action—to be proactive—and educate Congress on the supplement regulation issue. In order to prevent new legislative efforts to implement duplicative, unnecessary, and expensive regulations that could drastically reduce your access to health-giving supplements, we need your help to tell Congress that dietary supplements are already regulated!

That’s right: contrary to what the media has been saying (and many members of Congress believe), dietary supplements are indeed fully regulated. The FDA has complete authority to regulate supplements in three important ways:

  1. It can take any supplement off the the market that is unsafe, mislabeled, misbranded, adulterated, or makes false or misleading claims. (The FTC also has the power to stop any fraudulent advertising.)
  2. It is charged with enforcing the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which holds supplement manufacturers to “good manufacturing practices” (industry standards for product quality) as defined by the FDA itself.
  3. It collects and takes any necessary action based on “adverse event reports,” that is, any reported negative reactions to dietary supplements.

Please let your senators and your representative know that supplements are not drugs. It is nonsensical to treat them as drugs. Importantly, supplements are natural substances; therefore they cannot be patented; therefore to subject them to the vast cost of FDA approval would simply drive supplement producers out of business, leaving drug companies with a complete monopoly. Moreover, although they are not drugs, supplements are already fully regulated. More legislation is not needed. Please help deliver this message where it is needed. Please TAKE ACTION now.


Click THIS LINK to go to the Action Alert page. Once there, fill out the form with your name and address, etc., and customize your letter. We have a suggested message for you, but please feel free to add your own comments to the letter.

We’d also love to hear your comments about this article—just add your thoughts below—but remember that the messages below are only be seen by our ANH-USA readers and not Congress, the FDA, etc.

  • Andra Addis

    Supplements are not drugs. It is nonsensical to treat them as drugs. Importantly, supplements are natural substances; therefore, they cannot be patented and, therefore, to subject them to the vast cost of FDA approval would simply drive supplement producers out of business, leaving drug companies with a complete monopoly. Moreover, although they are not drugs, supplements are already fully regulated. More legislation is not needed.

    • Please don’t vote for something you don’t understand.

    • diana brendan

      What is the definition of “drug?” We need to define the word “drug” to show that supplements are not drugs.

    • Andy Gutting

      How can you say that supplements are not drugs when the term “supplements” encompasses such a broad number of products (well over 80,000)? I understand that some supplements such as certain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc, have been shown to be beneficial IF taken as recommended and not in combination with anything that reacts badly. But let’s face it – the vast majority of new supplements have nothing to do with basic vitamin/mineral supplementation. That market is pretty well saturated with products (Centrum, etc). These days its all hair regrowth, “male potency,” weight loss, and other such quackery. They slap the FDA warning on the bottle saying it’s not intended to prevent, treat, or cure any disease, then they make it painfully obvious through their labeling and advertising that the product IS intended to do just that. Wording things carefully keeps them legal in the eyes of the FTC, just barely. But they’re scammers, con artists, for the most part.

      So – I don’t want anything to happen to the supplements that HAVE been proven effective or helpful in some way. I just want testing for safety and efficacy of all supplements – and testing that’s reviewed by the FDA before the product can be sold, not some vague assurance that “yes, my product is fine, I don’t have any evidence, but you’ll get phone calls if people die!” Those supplements that are truly safe and effective will be able to provide this research. The rest will go away, and that’s a good thing. The good companies stay in business, the hucksters and con artists go under. What could be better than that?

  • mac mc cabe

    I depend on supplements for help in keeping flexible joints, fighting free radicals, keeping blood pressure manageable and all round better life style. I’m retired and don’t need big pharmaceuticals sending prices into orbit.
    Thank you

  • Please leave Vitamin C and other supplements alone!

  • Oh me Oh my.. what is our representative government trying to do?? I think we should start a class action lawsuit and get this matter out of the hands of political gain!! An objective legal process of review would be far better venue for decision making rather than the mercenary motives of politicians and Big Pharma!!

    • Sally Cernie Ph.d

      Hi George,
      I like the way you think…..Start a civil action lawsuit? what a great idea

  • Juanita Heitter

    Stop the nonsense. This is as always all about Big Pharma and money!
    Natrurall aids and supplements help more people stay healthy then any damaging DRUG ever did. WE are being fed a diet crap both literally and figuratively
    Gov should have NO say in what we put into our bodies. They are bought off by lobbyists for the drug companies care not one whit about a person’s health.
    Wake up America the FDA, FTC and especially drug companies are Killling Us!!

  • Scott MacDuff

    I filled out the Take Action form for the supplements to stay legal. When I clicked on the send button your response said you sent the email to Congressperson Roskum. My Congressperson is Mellisa Bean. You sent it to the wrong US Representative.

    • Thanks for letting us know, Scott. The system we use is supposed to use your address to determine the correct representative. We’re working with them to ensure the correct representative is being chosen.

  • Matthew Polson

    Interesting that Congress is not taking a closer look at BIg Pharma on the expansion of the industry to sell pharmaceuticals to kids. The dollar is the important issue here not public health, Congress are like many MD’s not educated on nutrition.

    Congress should not have any authority to create policy unless they have been fully educated and held fully accountable.

  • John DeMartini

    It is time politicians and bureaucrats understood they worked for the American citizens, not the big corporations. A big step in the right direction would be to hold drug companies to the same standards as the supplement industry. Perhaps we wouldn’t have so many dangerous drugs released for sale or used frivlously. Pehaps celebrex would never have been released or Advantia would be more closely scrutinized. It would help if the bureaucrats were told that human bodies were created in nature, not a pharmaceutical lab.

    • Sue Moxley

      Perhaps if the members of congress were not vertually guaranteed to be reelected, they might be more inclined to lean a little toware the will of “we, the people” rather than “they, the ones with deep pockets.” We have voting booths to take care of that little detail. If we fail to exercise our right to vote, or if we keep voting on the same “ignore the will of the people” candidates, we can expect things to stay the same. A really smart man once said that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” –Albert Einstein.

  • Bill Moss

    I will take care of my own health. I do not need government officials who work for Big Pharma companies doing that for me.

  • There is no “TAKE ACTION ” link in my email. I can not send message to Congress via your provided link. I prefer using your wording as I might miscommunicate trying to express the concept in my own words.
    Josie HIll

    • Josie, The link is found in the article above. You can reach the form to submit your letter by clicking the words “TAKE ACTION” at the end of the final paragraph (“More legislation is not needed. Please help deliver this message where it is needed. Please TAKE ACTION now.”).

  • Ruth Reddaway

    Supplements are NATURAL SUBSTANCES which cannot be patented, not drug dealer’s (and that’s what Big Pharma is) profitable laboratory concoctions. Witness the drug companies motivated FDA warning threats to cherry and walnut growers regarding stating these items are “good for your health.”
    Shows you just how far big drug companies will go to squash honest any competition for their toxic drugs.

    • Sally Cernie Ph.d

      Our forefathers knew what fruits, vegetables and herbs to use to stay healthy and heal their illnesses. they knew which were nutritious and which were poison and were smart enough to teach the young ones. Our forefathers have been replaced with greedy, money hungry individuals with their big laboratories which create synthetics that are poinson to humans. Every drug has terrible side effects. Compensating side effects with another drug only weakens the body and makes it work harder to heal itself.
      The answer is prevention but then, if everyone were healthy, who would benefit? Not Big Pharm, that’s for sure.

  • Lois Fehr

    They should be as stringet with prescription drugs (which kill many more people than supplements do) as they are with wupplements, which can help people to avoid many of the health problems in the world today when used correctly and as directed!

  • Dustin Shane Collings

    When if ever is the Food and Drug Administration going to approve the purchasing of certain weight lift chocolate drink supplements like sold at Bartell Drugs in Seattle by Food Stamp users?

    And when if ever will they approve same type (Food Stamp) purchase of flavored chewable Vitamin C pills?

    Mr. Dustin Collings

  • Stephen Levin

    I am strongly opposed to govt. regulation of supplements of any kind. We have not done so badly so far and although their may be the occasional problem arising from some products on the market, we would rather let the buyer beware and the market speak than big brother making our life decisions for us.

  • It’s gratifying to know that together we have made a difference, and we need to keep responding to the Action Alerts!

  • Cynthia B Hill

    So you want to genetically modify our food, when you can’t decode the simplest DNA, then make it next to impossible for an organic farmer to grow his crops, make it illegal for a dairy farmer to sell raw milk, and NOW you want to go after natural supplements?

    When we’re all dead or on disability from your legislation, who do you think is going to pay your salary aka taxes?

    Think about it.

  • This is more important than any of us really realize, please take time to read this and send it to the proper authority

  • The pharmaceutical companies, PharmaAssure, are already selling “dietary supplements” because
    they work! They just don’t want competition so they can raise the price.

  • Jan Emmons

    There have been more folks harmed and even killed by conventional drugs than were ever harmed by alternative supplements. It seems the FDA has one-way thinking when it comes to safety. The “safety factor” seems to apply to whole foods and supplements if they’re even hinted at as having anything to do with enhancing our health. No matter what the FDA thinks in this regard; it has been proven that walnuts are helpful to the heart. Cherries are helpful to folks with arthritis and natural herbs, some found in Mother Nature’s Rain Forest have been known to cure. Why the FDA, wants to put its HEAD IN THE SAND and only recommend BIG PHARMA drugs is a mystery to me. There are drugs like Vioxx, Celebrex, Bextra and now a very well known diabetic drug, all proven to be the cause of stroke, heart attacks, etc. which cause doctors to recommend they be taken off the market. The FDA is very slow to react to these kind of claims and always goes back to the makers of these drugs and asks for their input and studies which is very slow in coming forth. I think by now, everyone is aware of the tight relationship between the FDA and BIG PHARMA/BIG BUSINESS and that something needs to be done about this. The ordinary people have to protect themselves from the those who FOLLOW THE MONEY!!!!!! We need to follow the path of natural health. I would rather take my chances would Mother Nature’s Medicine Chest than the MEDICINE CHEST of Big Pharma and all their hidden agendas and political ties.

  • Anne Robertson

    Dietary supplements are not drugs. They are natural substances. No one spent great wads of money on “creating” them, and so they cannot be patented and sold for even greater wads of money. Plus they are already regulated. To subject them to the vast cost of FDA approval would simply drive the makers of dietary supplements out of business. Now I wonder whose interest that is? Right, it’s big pharma. They can’t stand up to the competition of real science. Dietary supplements give people the opportunity to choose. Do you think you were elected to take choice away from the consumer? Right, probably not.
    Now the good news is you don’t have to do anything to be the good guy or gal in this. All you have to do is just keep voting down all these nutty bills to make dietary supplements get treated like drugs. What could be easier? Well, what would be easier is not to have to vote no. To do that you need to get your buddies in Congress together and vote the next one of these bills down so resoundingly that even big pharma will get the idea. Go for it! I have faith in you.


    We don’t need protection from natural supplements. We need protection from the diabolical drug
    companies, the FDA and FTC as well as their henchmen like congressman Waxman. Our children also need protection from the CDC and the drug companies. Knowlegeable people are getting pretty hot under the collar from all the manipulations of government run by corporate giants. We should have the right to educate people of the scientifically proven health benefits as well as their traditional use of natural supplements.The laws that should be passed are ones that extend health freedom to all americans and not let individual states deny that freeedon to its citizens.

    Ronald M. Gagne
    Master Herbalist

  • Jay Wells

    Please do not fall into the trap of helping Big Pharma make supplements inacessible. Of course they want everyone to have to depend on their prescription meds, but many of us do not want their poisons. Don’t be trying to take away the freedom for grown people to choose their own health regimen.

  • Ira Gottlieb

    The Fda is in the pockets of the drug companies.Who dont want joe Q to have supplements but only patent meds so they can make billions more dollars

  • Charlotte Butler

    Natural Health Supplements should be seen as foods and not drugs. Nobody has ever died from taking a NHS where as the bodies are everywhere from pharmaceutical kills! Do the math and you’ll see where the onus should be?

  • dajad terlemezian


  • Eugene Saxby

    I am very happy that we have someone who is helping us keep our health through the use of supplements. Why our representatives in the House and Senate want decisions about citizens
    of the USA should be handed over to WHO arbitrarily I have no idea. It is obvious that
    that organization is not trying to make sure that we are as healthy or more so than other nations.
    I will send emails to my Congressional representatives to advise them of my objection to this

    Sincerely, Gene Saxby

  • Bill

    Given the fact that modern allopathic medicine is the biggest cause of death in the United States, and given that drugs like phen phen, tylenol, and many others have caused irreversible harm to countless Americans and given that fact that natural supplements have rarely ever caused any problems, I find it inconceivable that they would be banned or given by prescription only. The Big Drug Cartels only want a monopoly to raise the prices.

  • Kevin Aydelotte

    1.)FDA’s GMP requirements forthe manufacture of Nutritional Supplements are more stringent than for most drugs.
    2.) Citing accurate peer reviewed research should not be a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment. It is a first amendment issue.

  • If supplements are to be banished, why are theyshowing up in energy drinks and other foods now?

  • Juie Rideout

    Please do not support any bill that will restrict or limit my access to dietary nutrtitional supplements. Dietary Supplement Safety Act (S. 3002, The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 4173),The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), and The Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) are all damaging to my ability to protect my health and well being. Dietary supplements are already fully regulated. The 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) holds manufacturers responsible for “good manufacturing practices as defined by the FDA itself. Dietary supplements are not drugs and should not be treated as man made drugs. They are natural substances created by nature for the well being of humankind. They cannot be patented and drug companies should not be allowed to have a monopoly over them. More legislation is not needed. My own experience has taught me natural substances contribute to my health and well being. Please do not support more unneeded legislation that will cause harm and make healthy products unavailable to the people who need them. Thank you for listening to my comment.

  • Maria Martinez

    If i can no longer purchase Solgar’s Glycosamine-Chondroitin-Manganese-Vitamic C Complex over the counter at $50 a bottle for my osteoarthritis, I will have to get it through a doctor, who may adulterate it with Vioxx or something newer that turns out to be just as harmful. I”ll have to pay at least $125 just to see the doctor for 15 minutes of his busy day, and then, the drug companies may charge me $200 for the same bottle of pills. I’ll have to grow a mane and a tail and get it from a veterinarian; horses get osteoarthritis, too, and this supplement was being given to them long before it was first approved for people– in France!

  • Keep your legislative hands off of my suppliments.

  • Tony

    If congress keeps trying to pass legislation to regulate supplements more, why can’t someone introduce legislation that would basically bar them from continuing with those efforts, maybe take them out of the FDA’s (and FTC’s) hands completely by forming a new agency for supplements only (and therefore, hopefully, untouchable by drug company influence)?

  • Richard Crites

    Keep the government’s incompetent and meddling hands OFF the supplement industry.

  • Mary Lee McClure

    Might make sense if we all hadn’t been forced into trying to REPLACE, those ingredients that were naturally a part t of our diiet, but which. owing to someone’s infinite wisdom was removed., those for which the benefits to our heallth had once been deemed necessary until some idiot decided not. So what was left but to SUPPLEMENT to replace that which had been taken away. Let’s get real about this, PLEASE?

  • Tabatha

    Most MD’s are clueless about supplements, they are not educated about the piles of evidence to support its claims. I am learning more everyday and supplements have changed my life. Literally. The last thing we need is more help from the FDA on supplements, they suck at overseeing Food and Drugs.

  • Ruth Kirby

    Although I have, and will, take prescription pills
    when I felt and feel necessary,
    my preference is to use herbals such as
    echinacea along with those herbsthat help increase
    the natural abilities of my body.

  • C. Matteson

    We do not want our children drugged up simply to fill BIG PHARMA’s pockets.
    When is the insanity going to stop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • El

    What I find completely amusing is that the FDA does NOT allow any supplier of organic/natural supplements to make ANY claims about the efficacy of any herb but they now want to take control of this too ? Not to mention the bogus nature of it the above since NATURE has always been the true medicine to heal the body. All these synthetic drugs, the cost and control of who has the right to heal is whole other conversation unto its own.

    Let the Laws of Man be done away with now and let Nature take her true course.

  • Keep your hands out of the pockets of the drug industry and take care of the welfare of your constituents for a change. Is the money really that tempting. Don’t we pay you enough? Take action, disband the FDA they are a rouge agency and they are no longer working in the interest of the general public. Leave our supplements alone.

  • It’s truly egregious how often government oversteps their bounds making senseless power grabs that infringe upon our rights and freedoms. I for one don’t need big brother to protect me. I can make my own informed decisions.

  • No surprise here. Waxman seems to always be in on anything to take away our freedom. The sponsor and co-sponsors are,
    Rep. John Dingell [D-MI15]
    Diana DeGette [D-CO1]
    Frank Pallone [D-NJ6]
    Bart Stupak [D-MI1]
    Betty Sutton [D-OH13]
    Henry Waxman [D-CA30]

  • Judy A. Meeks

    Allopathic medicine is the leading cause of death in the USA which fails to look at the whole body. We rank 43 in the world for health prevention.

    I depend on natural supplements to undo the damage caused by years of taking prescription medicines, which are nothing more than man-made chemicals, and eating foods which have been genetically modified, treated with chemicals, pesticides and preservatives.

    I thought this was a government of the people, by the people and for the people not big pharmaceutical companies. Every item in the grocery store should be organic- in other words, God made, natural (not genetically modified) and free of chemicals, pesticides and preservatives.

    Perhaps all Representatives and the FDA should be made to wear uniforms like racecar drivers so we know who their sponsors are.

  • Jesse

    Suppliments are not drugs, no good reason to regulate them as such. Suppliments are food and drugs are drugs, simple.

  • Christina R

    Anything can be classified as a drug, because it is minipulated in some way in the manufacturing, and extraction process to make the supplement. Some are more naturally occuring while others greatly helped by the scientific method and processes. Vitamins especially those that are fat soluable have a higher incidences of toxcity as the body has a harder time to flush and thus lead to deadly levels by someone taking them but thinking more is better. Even the air we breath could be classified as a drug. The defination is so broad ranged that anyone can make the conclusion and use supporting data manipulated in ways to make a strong point. water soluable vitamins if taken in excess flows out of the body though urine so basically having designer pee in a way. Also too many supplments, and vitamins interact with prescriptions some dangerous and deadly leading to complications, some have contraindications, like Vitamin k and those on Coumadin or other blood thinners, to a multidude of others.

    All supplments taken should be listed with medications taken, so that your physician knows of them and can help inform if certain ones are contraindicated for either thier conditions, disease, medications taken, ect.

    So with any supplement, prescription, over the counter medication one has to be dilagent in educating self, going over the idea with physician, or ask their pharmacist. when one also sees thier doctor let them know of supplements, and over the counter medications taken, along with prescribed, so interactionsor contraindications then patient you can have the information from your physician as they then know what is taken. This also holds true when goes to the emergency room by disclosing then the proper treatments then can used.

    • Christina R

      Forgot to mention as of now thier really is not much in regulating the supplements, vitamins ect unless they are independently tested to see if dosage claimed is actually what is in product or if other ingredients not listed is in product.

      For those that want no regulation or standards, it is like stepping back in time and the snake oil salesman claimed thier medicine cured everything in reality most was alcohol, laudenum, cocaine, morphine ect which then hooked the one taking product addicted to it.

      I did forget to mention that supplements, vitamins, ect can be patented because of the process used to extraculate the vitamin, packaging, capsule, form, ect. Can even patent ideas too. It is a way for one to guard the process used, ect from others copying the method and thus robbing the inventor, scientist, business of intelectual property. when patents are about to expire and do if the orginal person granted patent does not renew then in the wings are the ghost sort of analgy used to scoop up patent and then become the owner of it.