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Senator McCain – Please Read Your Own Bill

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On Monday, Senator McCain released a Senate Floor Statement defending his Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010. He lashed out at “opponents of the bill and their well-paid Washington lobbyists” who have “spread false statements and rumors about the legislation”.
OK. So what are these alleged “false statements and rumors”?
McCain again:
“Opponents have stated that the legislation would seek to limit consumers’ ability to purchase dietary supplements, vitamins, or prescription drugs. That is completely false…. If you take a vitamin now, this bill will in no way restrict your ability to take that vitamin.”
McCain clearly hasn’t read his own bill. Perhaps he needs a plain English version. Under current law, the FDA cannot arbitrarily ban a supplement that was sold prior to October 15, 1994, the date that the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was passed. McCain’s bill wipes out that protection. What supplements would be legal to sell if this bill passes? Only those supplements “included on [a] list…prepared, published, and maintained by the [FDA]”. In other words, traditional (pre 1994) supplements would no longer be protected. The FDA would have arbitrary power to choose permitted supplements and (importantly) supplement doses.
Senator McCain is engaging in patent falsehoods here, not the critics. And let’s not forget: the FDA has repeatedly shown its hostility to supplements and favoritism toward drugs (perhaps because drugs pay the FDA’s bills). An FDA with arbitrary power over supplements could very well be expected to institute a European style regulatory regime, one that restricts the amount of beta carotene in a supplement to what is available from half a carrot. Sound ridiculous? It is happening right now in Europe, and the FDA is in close touch with the European regulators.
McCain touches on just this point. He says that “Opponents also claim the bill establishes a new regulatory structure for dietary supplements. That is completely false.” But it’s not false; it’s true. The broad regulatory framework for supplements at the moment is provided by DSHEA. McCain’s bill guts the protections provided by DSHEA and gives the FDA complete and arbitrary authority. If that isn’t a new regulatory structure, what is?
Until now, supplement producers have also been allowed to market a “new dietary ingredient”, that is, one not sold as a supplement prior to 1994, if it has been “in the food supply as an article used for food in a form not chemically altered.” McCain’s bill also wipes this out. If passed, supplement producers would have to prove the safety of the ingredient to the satisfaction of the FDA even if the item has been in food for millennia. This is a big change. But McCain still insists that it isn’t a new regulatory structure. Need we add that the FDA almost never agrees that a supplement has been proven safe? The Agency wants full drug trials, but who can afford to pay for full drug trials on a non-patentable substance? Are we going to end up paying $100 for a supplement tablet?
McCain also tells us that “people have died from taking dietary supplements… and thousands have had to be hospitalized….” He should provide his sources. No one died from dietary supplements in 2008, the last year reported, according to the Association of Poison Control Centers. Supplements have a truly remarkable record of safety, in sharp contrast to FDA approved drugs, which are a leading cause of death.
There is much, much else that is wrong with the McCain bill. But we have covered that in our earlier alert and won’t repeat. We will close with a few more whoppers from Senator McCain. He tells us that his “legislation is about truth in labeling” but he can’t even label his bill truthfully. He also says that it “is about giving consumers choice”. Taking away consumers’ existing rights to choose supplements and giving arbitrary authority to the FDA is not about “giving consumers choice”. This could be Orwellian double speak. More likely McCain does not understand his own bill.
Have you contacted your senator to ask them not to co-sponsor and to oppose Senator McCain’s bill? If not, please do so now!  Take Action
If you have already contacted your senators, please send a letter protesting Senator McCain’s gross distortions.  Take Action

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