This time it’s been slipped into a defense bill. Major Action Alert!
We suspected it would only be a matter of time before Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) launched his next broadside against supplements. Once again, Durbin and his allies, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), are pouncing on must-pass legislation and attaching last-minute amendments that would threaten Americans’ access to supplements.
The bill this time is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an appropriations bill to fund the military for FY 2016. The House passed its version of the bill in May. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced what is called “an amendment in the nature of a substitute” to create a Senate version of the House-passed bill. The Blumenthal/Durbin amendments were introduced on top of the McCain legislation.
Because it is a defense bill, the Blumenthal/Durbin amendments pertain to the supplement use of the US armed forces.
There are three amendments.
The first amendment would require military electronic health records to include data regarding supplement adverse events experienced by servicemen and women. This type of information is already gathered by the FDA, which is much better situated to handle it than the Department of Defense. This additional data collection is redundant and cumbersome. In 2011, Sen. Durbin and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) asked the Government Accounting Office to review supplement adverse event reports (AERs). In 2013 the GAO completed its report—which overwhelmingly demonstrated that supplements are safe! Why in the world is Durbin following the same tactic that embarrassed him so completely two years ago?
According to the resulting GAO report, there were a total of 6,307 AERs reported to the FDA between 2008 and 2011—an average of 1,575 a year. At the time, we pointed out that this was quite a low number, considering the fact that about half of Americans—157 million people—take supplements. This means that one-hundredth of one percent of all supplement users ever experience any problems at all.
If Sens. Waxman and Durbin had cared to search out where the real danger lies for the American consumer, they wouldn’t have had to look very hard. In 2008 alone, there were a whopping 526,527 AERs for FDA-approved drugs, with 275,421 considered serious. Of course, the astonishingly poor safety record of pharmaceutical drugs is irrelevant if you have a vendetta against supplements, as Sen. Durbin and his allies seem to have.
The second amendment would require the Department of Defense to establish minimum requirements for members of the armed forces to report on their supplement use. Service people would be ordered to report what vitamins and supplements they take—which means they could easily be ordered to stop taking them! It is simply Orwellian to have members of the military report on their supplement use. What business is it of the government if a service member is taking vitamin D, or B12? Big Brother shouldn’t be able to reach into your toiletries kit or control what you tell your doctor—even on a military base.
The third and most troubling of the amendments would extend a currently existing policy which regulates certain supplements on military bases to require all supplements that are to be sold to members of the military at exchange stores or commissaries to undergo a third-party review for “recognized public standards of identity, purity, strength, and composition, and adherence to related process standards.” This may sound innocent, but it is anything but.
First, supplements must already, by law, hold to current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs), which require that that they be processed in a consistent manner and meet quality standards. Second, supplement companies will likely be expected to pay huge sums for this review. Only the biggest companies, many of them owned by Big Pharma, will be able to comply. Yet another government-created monopoly will be handed over to big drug companies.
In addition, once this regime is established, it will be only a short step to expand it to all US consumers, not just the military. Then the pharmaceutical industry will have what it really wants: control over the supplement industry. Many supplements will become drugs and soar in price while their availability is restricted. As with any monopoly, quality will also decline, because regulations are never a substitute for real competition involving new and small as well as old and large companies.
Supplements are incredibly safe and already fully regulated by the FDA and FTC. These amendments are misguided attempts to limit access and hamper individual health freedom.
The truth of the matter is that the current regulatory regime governing dietary supplements is working—which is why supplements have such a sterling safety record. In fact, our counterparts at ANH-Europe found that UK residents were about as likely to get struck by lightning as die from taking dietary supplements.
We’ve come to expect this sort of maneuver from Durbin and company: what can’t be accomplished through more conventional democratic means, they try to accomplish through sneaky, eleventh-hour maneuvering before the public can catch wind of it. This military appropriations bill has nearly 200 amendments attached to it, and not all of them will be discussed by the Senate. With your help, we hope to prevent the Blumenthal/Durbin amendments from ever being considered on the Senate floor. The natural health community has responded vigorously to defeat previous Durbin attacks against supplements: in one instance, our readers sent nearly 90,000 messages in less than twenty-four hours. The time has come again to make our voices heard on Capitol Hill to protect our access to quality dietary supplements!
Major Action Alert! Write or call your senators and urge them to stop the Blumenthal/Durbin amendments, which will take dangerous steps towards limiting consumers’ access to dietary supplements. Please send your message immediately.