The Free Speech About Science Act
There is new legislation being offered and, finally, it’s favorable toward the dietary supplement and natural foods industry! Consumers have been kept in the dark about the health benefits of vitamins and foods. Why? Because the current law says that if you are a natural product you may not “prevent, diagnose, treat or cure” anything and if you make any claims along those lines, i.e. “fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory,” then in the eyes of the FDA you are selling a drug. And that is illegal.
This highly biased law is great for the pharmaceutical industry. But, it’s bad for you, because it doesn’t allow you to make fully informed, personal health care choices. There is very good research on the curative and preventative benefits of certain nutrients, the kind of stuff you find in a refereed journal, but the natural products industry cannot site any of it!
In this country, we are bombarded by a tired old mantra about nutrients: “there needs to be more research…we don’t know what they will do.” Yet, we readily accept any prescription drug because a doctor says we need it and overlook that fact that over 110,000 deaths occur every year in this country from non-error, adverse effects of medications. What that means is that the patient got the right drug for the right condition in the right dosage, but the patient died anyway. So says a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), No.4, July 26th 2000 article written by Dr. Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH of the John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.
Juxtapose that to a published report by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, stating no one died in the year 2008 as a result of taking a dietary supplement. (1) The facts are that legitimate reports of deaths caused by dietary supplements in this century are virtually non-existent. No more than 11 people in the past 24 years! In fact you have a better chance of being poisoned by dish detergent than you do of being poisoned by vitamins.
So now there is new legislation being proposed by Jason Chaffetz (R, UT) and Jared Polis (D, CO), both of whom co-chair the Dietary Supplement Caucus. They have introduced H.R. 4913, the Free Speech about Science Act. This landmark legislative offering ensures (1) basic free speech rights, (2) ends censorship of science, and (3) enables the natural health products community to share peer-reviewed, scientific findings about natural health products with the public. This is a small bill with vast potential leverage. If it passes it will help you make more informed health care choices, and, eliminate the fallacy that only drugs are backed by science.
Next: The fight for nutritional supplements
Along with Representative Ron Paul’s bills — HR 3394, the Freedom of Health Speech Act and HR 3395, the Health Freedom Act — this newly introduced legislation can finally advance the debate regarding the suppression of knowledge about the relationship between food, supplements and health. Representative Paul has long championed permitting sound science to be used by marketers of both food and dietary supplements.
Click here to read more and to urge your representative to cosponsor these critical bills!
Both of these bills would help level the playing field with regard to those consumers who choose dietary supplements and natural food products to enhance their health, because the science would be much more readily available thereby helping the consumer make better and more beneficial choices. Also, it will challenge the vitamin and natural products industry to do more scientific research to market their products.
Mainstream medical journals publish negative editorials against nutritional supplements. Most of this “scientific” misinformation is funded by the pharmaceutical industry which abhors competition. Most medical doctors are exposed only to biased negative reviews paid for by big Pharma. For instance, recently the media ran headlines claiming that vitamins C, D, and E do not prevent heart attacks or strokes. But the media gave no notice to credible organizations who offered rebuttals, i.e. Life Extension Foundation, Natural Products Association, and The Journal of Natural and Complementary Medicine. The truth is that there were many flaws in the study that came to this conclusion…including whether the antioxidants were consumed together or alone and if the natural or synthetic forms were used. Other studies that did show significant improvement in cardiovascular health were not used as any sort of balanced reference. Thus the consumer who relies on main stream media may draw the false conclusion that these supplements are not effective.
Media is greatly supported by pharmaceutical advertising. Count the number of drug commercials within an evening TV program, a radio show or a mainstream magazine and it is easy to see why these media outlets might be biased. It is in the economic interest of drug companies to steer Americans away from healthier life styles and dietary supplements. Enormous amounts of pharmaceutical dollars are spent influencing congress, the FDA and other federal agencies.
There is a great need for FDA laws to change. They are out of date and they don’t really serve the consumer. Now we are all for truth in advertising, and don’t believe that nutrient companies should be able to advertise false or outrageous claims, but we do believe that nutrient companies should be able to tell you how a product works based on scientific research.
Today there is voluminous research on dietary supplements and how they can help in the prevention and treatment of disease. If these bills are passed, it would finally allow freedom of speech regarding the real health benefits of dietary supplements and allow all of us to make more informed health care choices. Hopefully it would also open the door to get the cost of dietary supplements paid for by health insurance companies.
It’s a tough battle, the nutraceutical industry is up against big-Pharma and progress is slow. Neither of us are anti-drug. There is a time and place for drugs. It just shouldn’t be the very first mode of treatment for all health problems. The playing field should be leveled. The consumer should have a truly informed choice.
1. Bronstein AC, Spyker DA, Cantilena LR Jr, Green JL, Rumack BH, Giffin SL. 2008 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 26th Annual Report. Clinical Toxicology. 2009. 47, 911-1084.