The use of supplements is a normal part of people’s personal health care, to the point that one rarely needs a prescription to buy any. Supplements can also provide the right amounts of certain nutrients that are hard to get regularly, or are present in only very tiny amounts in our food.
A bit of state regulation of dietary supplements seems logical in order to ensure consumer safety. There is already a law in place to do this. It is called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. It helps ensure that customers know what they are buying, and that companies are truthful about what they sell. In the spirit of recognizing consumer freedom, it also places some boundaries on the degree to which the FDA can interfere with supplements. Supplements that were allowed onto the market before the bill’s arrival are protected from interference, as well as those rooted in food products that already form part of the food supply. However, a new bill called the Dietary Supplements Safety Act might take this protection away, if it is passed.
This new legislation is spearheaded by John McCain, and gives the FDA greater power to take products out of the market on the grounds of complaints, which need not be proven before being put into effect. If a company’s product gets pulled, they have to submit mountains of paperwork and go through complicated legal proceedings before the products are (maybe) put back on the shelves of drugstores.
Of course, this additional work—and lost profit—is more easily shouldered by the larger companies. Smaller companies that have fewer resources and fewer products to make money from may suffer a fatal blow.
Ironic, isn’t it, that the leading member of a party that historically advocates small government is pushing forward legislation that calls for far greater intervention in healthcare? Or perhaps the fact that this bill benefits big business has something to do with the Republican Party’s support of it. Just a theory. Furthermore, the prospect of granting the FDA more power should give us pause, given that big pharmaceutical companies are often able to exert a great deal of influence upon it, to the point that we cannot really call it a neutral arbiter in matters of health.
If you disagree with this bill and what it does to both the supply and demand side of the supplements market, do let your voice be heard, and contact your congressman (or congresswoman) about your wish to have it blocked. Writing to newspapers and other publications might also be a good idea.
Remember, one of the best things about living in a (supposedly) democratic country is that you have the opportunity to voice your opinions about issues of national significance. In a democracy, high-level politicians are supposed to be servants, not masters, of the public. You have the right to get your voice heard on this and many other issues. Exercise your right to speak to those you have elected to power and tell them what you would like done.