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ANH Counterpunches FTC in Free Speech Fight

ANH Counterpunches FTC in Free Speech Fight
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ANH-USA has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn the real motivations for the FTC’s attack on free speech in the natural products sector. Action Alert!

Our FOIA request stems from concerns that the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recent guidance will have the effect of limiting consumer access to vital scientific information about the benefits of dietary supplements and other natural products. We believe the agency is poised to start cracking down on health claims related to nutrients, and we want to learn how the new FTC policy was generated, which could potentially serve as the basis for a legal challenge to the agency’s overreach.

As we said in our previous coverage of this topic, we’re facing a government-led campaign to conceal the remarkable truth about the healing and disease-preventing powers of foods and nutrients, ultimately misleading the public so that they spend their money on drugs rather than natural supplements. This new policy is the culmination of many years of work on the part of federal agencies to block Americans from learning about how to manage their health with natural products rather than FDA-approved drugs.

Here’s how we got to this point. In a revision to its Health ProductsCompliance Guidance issued in December 2022, the FTC aims to impose drug standards on supplements, requiring expensive randomized controlled human clinical testing for supplement companies to make most health claims. The agency then sent out a barrage of 670 letters to companies, including those selling dietary supplements, homeopathic products, and functional foods, warning them that if they make claims without scientific substantiation to the level required by the FTC’s new guidance, they will face large civil penalties—up to $50,120 per violation. 

This is an absurd overreach that is a backhanded way of banning many health-related claims for supplements. As we’ve explained many times, clinical trials are incredibly expensive. Drug companies can afford them because drugs are patentable and the costs can be recouped when the drug is approved and sold for exorbitant prices. Nutrients generally cannot be strongly patented, so the costs of clinical trials cannot be recouped. The government knows this, so the attempt to require clinical trials for supplement claims is a backdoor ban on most claims. This makes sense if your goal is to protect the drug industry from competition, but not if you want to empower consumers with information so they can take control of their own health.

Undermining consumer access to information on natural health products has been the government’s project for quite some time. ANH-USA and other stakeholders had to sue the FDA to allow information about folate’s role during pregnancy in preventing neural tube defects in the unborn child. Prior to this legal victory, supplement manufacturers were not permitted to let consumers know about this important nutrient relationship, and many consumers were in the dark. ANH has in fact filed nine precedent-setting lawsuits against the FDA, which have established qualified health claims for saw palmetto, Omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B, and selenium.

For years, the FDA and the FTC have been working together to limit our knowledge about the benefits of supplements. The FDA infamously attacked cherry and walnut growers for citing peer-reviewed research about the benefits of those foods. The FDA invented the term “implied disease claim” to ban many legal claims about supplements. The truthful claim that niacin lowers cholesterol is considered by the FDA an implied claim that the product is a treatment for hypercholesterolemia, so the truthful information is banned. The FDA has banned supplements from making claims about helping with inflammation and hangovers because the agency considers those to be diseases. We reported on the FTC’s campaign against Xlear, a nasal spray company, for discussing the results of more than a dozen studies demonstrating the plausibility of using its nasal spray to help with COVID. There are many more examples.

This isn’t about protecting an unsuspecting public from fraudulent actors selling snake oil. As the examples above show, the practical effect of these actions, including the FTC’s recent salvo of letters, is to prevent us from harnessing the healing power of nature because this cuts into drug industry profits. Big Pharma has massive influence in the government and the FDA especially: the agency receives 45% of its operating budget directly from drug companies in the form of “user fees” (used for the approval of new drugs, biologics and devices).

Help us push back against the government’s censorship campaign and support free speech!

Action Alert! Write to Congress and the FTC, telling them to complete ANH’s FOIA request. Please send your message immediately.

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