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Privacy, Science at Risk

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In 2006, then President George W. Bush signed into law the dietary supplement and OTC bill dealing with reporting on adverse events. Now, the French food safety agency, AFSSA (Agence française de sécurité sanitaire des aliments), has launched a program to monitor the consumption of dietary supplements and any adverse events.

Dr Robert Verkerk, executive and scientific director at the pan-European group Alliance for Natural Health, told that although government-led efforts to accumulate reports of adverse events through practitioners, health stores and other suppliers of supplements is in principle sound, there is great potential for such data to be misused:

“We have seen both in Europe and the USA, numerous cases where food supplements have been flagged as causative agents of particular adverse effects when further scrutiny demonstrates they were simply among large lists of products, often including medications and even alcohol and recreational drugs, consumed. It is utterly misleading to misrepresent the role of food supplements in such instances and the only way around the problem is to ensure absolute transparency in reporting, access to medical records and in the drawing of conclusions as to the potential contributory role of specific food supplements.”

Although very few adverse events following the use of dietary supplements are reported to the FDA, too often media frenzy focuses on the use of supplements when, in fact, other factors — including the use of medications and recreational substances, such as alcohol — have a more profound role to play. Kudos to Dr. Verkerk!

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