FDA Goes After Supplements

By Lee Bellinger / December 26, 2013

Are Your Supplements Safe?

Dangerous supplements It’s become so routine it would almost be boring if it weren’t such a big threat to your health.

We’re talking about the FDA and big pharmaceutical companies teaming up once again to try to drive natural supplements off the market.

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), passed in 1994, protects your access to natural supplements. As long as a supplement contains natural ingredients (vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, or amino acids), it does not need to undergo an FDA approval process.

Under the DSHEA, supplement manufacturers must label their products truthfully and accurately, and they must meet the quality and safety practices defined by the FDA. It also falls to these companies to report any adverse events resulting from the use of their supplements. Through this channel dangerous ingredients can be pulled from the market.

Since its passage, the DSHEA has been under near constant attack. Most of the attacks originate with Senator Dick Durbin. He regularly proposes amendments to change the DSHEA so that supplements are treated more like prescription drugs. The FDA and big pharmaceutical support the attempts to undermine the supplement industry. They would like to limit your access to supplements. If the law were to change, pharmaceutical companies would become your only source of supplements. Supplements would be expensive and hard to get… but they’d be profitable for Big Pharma. Priorities, right?

A Few Bad Apples

Every time a supplement company uses questionable ingredients that put the safety of consumers at risk, the entire supplement industry comes under fire. This is a deliberate effort by the FDA to paint the industry with a broad brush.

Unfortunately these few bad seeds put your access to safe, natural supplements at risk. Earlier this year a number companies manufacturing sports and energy drinks and weight loss supplements included an illegal ingredient in their otherwise natural products. The ingredient, geranium extract, sounds harmless enough. It’s not. It can lead to cardiovascular issues including high blood pressure and even heart attack.

In this situation, the company was hiding behind DSHEA to bring a product to market that DID NOT fall under DSHEA protections. Fortunately, DSHEA provides a way to get these types of dangerous products pulled from the market.

Unfortunately, the FDA, the big pharmaceutical companies, and several members of Congress use cases like these to attack the DSHEA. If they get their way, it will become prohibitively expensive or even impossible for you to get the natural supplements you know and trust to help you maintain your good health.

Selecting Safe Supplements Without the Help of the FDA

Natural supplements actually have a glowing safety record. Compare the number of health related incidents triggered by natural supplements versus those triggered by over-the-counter drugs or by prescription medications, and there’s no doubt that this industry doesn’t need more regulation. The attention should be on the dangerous drugs.

Just look at how supplements measure up:

  • Adverse drug events annually during hospitalization – 770,000
  • Death and serious injuries caused by adverse drug events – 2 million annually
  • Fatalities from adverse drug reactions – 100,000 annually
  • Adverse reactions to supplements – 1,200 annually

    (including people who claim the supplement is not working as expected)

  • Deaths from adverse supplement reactions – 10 annually
  • Hospitalizations from adverse supplement reactions – 170 annually

The system we have in place to react quickly to dangerous substances and pull them from the market is working… clearly natural supplements are dramatically safer than drugs, both over-the-counter and prescription. But the media and the government never miss a chance to trot out the handful of horror stories associated with supplements while quietly sweeping the millions of similar stories associated with drugs under the rug.

A savvy supplement shopper doesn’t need to worry about adverse events and as such you certainly don’t need the FDA, Senator Durbin, or the big pharmaceutical companies holding your hand when you make a vitamin or mineral selection. Just use these three guidelines to make sure you’re getting safe supplements:

  1. Select trusted brands. Talk to a doctor, a naturopath, or even a pharmacist about the supplement brands they recommend.
  2. Do your own research at reputable websites. If you’re considering taking a new supplement, visit a site like webmd.com or lef.org to learn about safety issues including proper dosages, whether or not to take the supplement on an empty stomach, and possible reactions.
  3. Consult with a doctor. Find a doctor who is supportive of natural remedies and get their advice on what to take, how much, and which brands to buy.

The media, the FDA, and big pharmaceutical companies use scare tactics to make it sound like these products are truly dangerous, but you should not be afraid to take vitamins, minerals, and other natural supplements to help maintain your health. Just use a little common sense, and you can support your health without fearing adverse reactions.