Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Saturday, November 06, 2004

HERBAL HIGHS: "NATURAL" IS NOT A SYNONYM FOR SAFE.

APS What's new by Bob Park - August 16, 2002

HERBAL HIGHS: "NATURAL" IS NOT A SYNONYM FOR SAFE.

The 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act, passed in response to a massive lobbying campaign by the supplement industry, turned the clock back a hundred years to the days of the traveling snake-oil salesmen. It exempted "natural" dietary supplements from proof of safety, efficacy, or purity. The only requirement is that they not be promoted as preventing or treating disease (WN 7 Jan 00). Not to worry, backers such as Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) insisted. If any problems show up, the FDA can take a supplement off the market. How does the FDA do this? They must go to court to demonstrate that the substance is harmful. "When the bodies start piling up," as one FDA official put it. Well, in the case of ephedra, the pile of bodies is higher than anyone knew. The leading supplier of ephedra, Metabolife International, was required to report all consumer complaints of bad reactions to the FDA. But it now turns out that the company had more than 1300 undisclosed complaints involving ephedra, about 80 of which involved death or serious injury. Ephedra is a herbal stimulant, sold on the internet as herbal "Ecstacy," the street drug it chemically resembles. The FDA has fought unsuccessfully to ban ephedra for years. The Department of Justice has now undertaken a criminal investigation of Metabolife, but the real solution is to repeal the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act.



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