The War on Supplements

The Food and Drug Administration -- funded and controlled by Big Pharma -- is heavily biased in favor of drugs. And since Big Pharma wants to solidify its monopoly over medicine, it has coerced the FDA to campaign to limit consumer access to non-patentable nutritional supplements, which promote health and prevent disease. Drugs, even when taken properly under prescription, cause 1.9 million hospitalizations per year and close to 900,000 patients to experience serious drug reactions, according to a Harvard report. More alarming statistics: prescription drugs are a major health risk, ranking fourth (with stroke) as a leading cause of death; and new FDA-approved prescription drugs have a one-in-five chance of causing adverse reactions. But despite that, the FDA believes that it is supplements that are unsafe, and unleashes campaigns against them on behalf of Big Pharma.

Dietary supplements have never been considered drugs, and for long have been regulated as special foods. As intrinsic substances in the food supply, vitamins and supplements have been known for more than a century. The postulation that they are essential dietary factors, necessary to prevent disease, originated in research from as early as 1913. Vitamin C, for instance, prevents scurvy, and Vitamin D prevents rickets. So vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and other such substances were isolated and synthesized to guard against deficiency diseases and a variety of conditions.

But for at least the past decade, the supplement industry has been under siege by the FDA. Under the guise of protecting consumer health, several laws and regulations have been proposed to recharacterize them as drugs and thus give the FDA the power to regulate them. For decades, the FDA has subjected the industry to economic harassment in order to restrict consumer access to supplements. The agency has sought to achieve this through regulations and -- more importantly -- restrictions on claims that can be made for supplements. Therefore, although supplements, unlike drugs, do not kill people in the thousands annually, the FDA seeks expensive trials. Since the revenues of supplement manufacturers are way below those of Big Pharma, such demands jeopardize their products. As supplements are viewed as competition for drugs, such checks would prove a boon to the drug industry and benefit the FDA as well.

In the early 1990s, the FDA was moving toward a policy of restricting the availability of dietary supplements. It even stated that supplements represented a disincentive for patented drug research.” In 1994, in response to requests from the whole-foods industry and health-freedom advocates, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) to protect consumer access to a wide variety of safe and beneficial supplements.

But now there is a bigger peril to the supplements industry -- a noxious international agenda that is potentially more threatening. Orchestrated internationally by Big Pharma through the U.N., the WHO, and the World Trade Organization, the agenda aims to enforce a set of global standards established in 1963 by a joint intergovernmental body called the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The stated purpose of Codex is to protect consumer health, protect fair food trade practices, and coordinate food standards worldwide. In 2005, Codex adopted global standards for vitamin and mineral food supplements, enabling the U.N., WHO, and WTO to place severe restrictions on natural forms of healthcare.

What we see is a blending of the national agenda, virtually set by Big Pharma via the FDA, with an international one, also set by Big Pharma. The ostensible purpose is to harmonize standards for food and medicine. But ultimately, the international standard is set to supersede domestic standards. So the protections won by supplement makers through DSHEA will be sidestepped. With American law harmonized with Codex, restrictions will be set on the maximum potency and availability of supplements and natural alternatives. The supplements industry -- lacking the power to influence at the international level -- will be choked.

The FDA and its Big Pharma cohorts, who favor harmonization” with Codex, have been working offshore, away from the glare of the American media, on international treaties and trade agreements that threaten to ultimately supplant DSHEA, enforce international standards, and gain complete control over supplements. These machinations will ensure that Codex will nullify DSHEA.

Member countries of the World Trade Organization, which uses Codex standards, are obliged to abide by its rules and standards or suffer penalties or trade sanctions. The FDAs eagerness to comply, driven no doubt by Big Pharma, which has had its say in setting the international agenda, is particularly evident in an FDA statement in the Federal Register of October 11, 1995. It says the agency will develop standards that comply with Codex requirements, and where a relevant international standard exists or completion is imminent, it will generally be used in preference to a domestic standard.”

This concerted effort by Big Pharma and the FDA, at the national and international level, could greatly curtail access to important nutrients, vitamins, and mineral supplements, and thereby leave consumers prone to preventable disease. In 1993, an ad campaign persuaded many people to write to their representatives against FDA attempts to suppress supplement makers and ultimately led to DSHEA. It featured Mel Gibson raided by a SWAT team when hes taking some pills. Hey, guys,” he says, its only vitamins. Vitamin C, you know, like in oranges.” But hes handcuffed nevertheless, and taken away.

The overreach on supplements by an unaccountable administrative state must be stopped at the pass. Else, like in the ad, we will all find ourselves arrested for taking our supplements; that is if we still have access to them.

Image: PxFuel

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