NPR Airs "Regulation of Dietary Supplements" 31807

November 1, 2000

2 Min Read
NPR Airs "Regulation of Dietary Supplements"


NPR Airs "Regulation of Dietary Supplements"

WASHINGTON--On Nov. 1, National Public Radio's (NPR) "Talk of theNation" program broadcasted industry and media views regarding theregulation of dietary supplements. Guest host Melinda Penkava spoke with MichaelMcGuffin, president of the American Herbal Product Association (AHPA), and BruceSilverglade, director of legal affairs at the Center for Science in the PublicInterest. In addition, an interview with Washington Post science reporter anddevil's advocate for the industry, Guy Gugliotta, was broadcast in a separatesegment within the program. According to Penkava, the Food and DrugAdministration (FDA) declined the opportunity to sit in on the discussion.

Penkava stated that the current bad press revolving around ephedra stimulateda heightened concern for dietary supplement regulations. Gugliotta admitted thatephedra is regulated by the FDA as a food, but that ephedra works more like adrug and should be regulated as such. "Companies do not have to reportadverse effects if they take place, so pretty much everyone is flying blindabout how dangerous or effective this particular substance is."

This began the start of a lively discussion between McGuffin and Silverglade,whose respective views on this highly controversial herb clash. "I findmyself in agreement with some of the things that Mr. Gugliotta has stated. Infact, ephedra products are regulated as foods with one importantdifference," McGuffin said. "Supplements are allowed to providewarning statements. We have recommended that any [AHPA] members that sellephedra products provide a warning statement to caution sensitive populationsand to caution against possible side effects." McGuffin admitted this was avoluntary statement, but AHPA and three other trade groups petitioned FDA toadopt this industry regulation as national standard. This standard would alsoencompass recommended serving sizes and appropriate consumer use.

Silverglade claimed that the proposed national standard submitted to FDA wasweakly worded, and it only warns children, nursing and pregnant women fromtaking ephedra. "The FDA's [proposed label] wanted to say that exceedingthe recommended doses [for ephedra] could cause heart attacks, stroke or death.[The industry's proposed] warning label...talks about serious adverse healtheffects," Silverglade said, adding that the industry's "marketinghype" masks potential death from taking ephedra products.

McGuffin responded that an expert panel review that convened in August"concluded that there is not an association between supplements containingephedra and the serious adverse events that FDA has reported." McGuffinadded that ephedra is not for every consumer at every time in any quantity.

In regards to better regulating all dietary supplements, McGuffin mentionedthat the Presidential Commission was approached to have FDA reopen theinvestigation into an over-the-counter designation for traditional medicine,under which dietary supplements would fall. Until then, McGuffin recommendbuying herbal brands that have good reputations and calling the product'smanufacturer with any questions.

In the meantime, research and lobbying may be the key in spreading a betterreputation for herbal supplements. "The dietary supplement industry shouldpitch in and pay for [research]," Silverglade said. "Research poolscould be created that could be funded by the industry as a whole based oncompanies' gross annual sales."

For a transcript of the program, call (877) NPR-TEXT.

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