Better Regulation of Supplements

Filed under: by: Hey Doc Wait

Senator John McCain has introduced a bill in the Senate that would increase the FDA's ability to regulate "dietary supplements" and hasten the FDA's ability to quickly remove dangerous products from distribution. Better bloggers than I have discussed this here (at Science-Based Medicine) and here (at Movin' Meat). The law isn't very drastic, but it seems that it would require supplement manufacturers to report all adverse events to the FDA, and it would give the FDA the ability to issue cease production orders if a product is determined to be harmful; the company has the ability to appeal, but if the appeal fails the FDA can issue a formal recall.

When I talk to patients about supplements, I advise them to be careful. I tell them, you don't necessarily know what you are getting. You may be getting exactly what you pay for, you may get extra active ingredient, or you may get no active ingredient. For example, as red yeast rice supplements are growing more popular in lowering cholesterol (and studies are backing this up), some of the supplement tablets are being laced with statin medication to make them more effective.

I support people's rights to make choices, and if they choose a supplement that's fine. I take a few myself. However, I support the right to make informed decisions. How can a decision be informed when you don't know what's in your pill? If you have a bad reaction to a prescription medication, this is reported and monitored. If you have a bad reaction to a supplement, it's your tough luck.

If this is something you support, then go read the bill (found here), and consider writing to your senator. This will have a lot of opposition from Orrin Hatch, so if this bill is going to pass then people on both sides of the aisle will have to get motivated.