Supplement industry fights for awareness

Consumer Reports’ September issue

The September 2012 issue of Consumer Reports revealed that the dietary supplement industry still has a tough road to hoe in distancing responsible players in the nutritional sector from those purveyors of illegally marketed drugs and other quackery products. 

The report, titled “10 Surprising Dangers of Vitamins & Supplements,” fingers many dangers that actually are no surprise at all, but rather are characterizations that organizations like the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the Natural Products Association have been trying to fight for years.

Consumer Reports’ first “surprise” danger was that “supplements are not risk free,” citing the 6,300 serious adverse events associated with supplements that the Food and Drug Administration fielded over the past five years. Not in the Consumer Reports report, however, were the 471,291 SAERs associated with allopathic medicines that the FDA had fielded in just one calendar year within that same timespan.

The supplement industry has been working on raising awareness among healthcare practitioners around appropriate supplement use. CRN on Aug. 23 hosted a webinar on common drug-supplement interactions for pharmacists through Pharmacist Society, and for nurses practitioners through the website Generation NP.

Consumer Reports’ second “surprise” danger was the misnomer that “some supplements are really prescription drugs,” pointing to the number of illicit online sites shilling erectile dysfunction drugs as natural supplements or anabolic steroids as sports nutrition. “If a [company] makes disease-state claims or includes a drug [in their product], then it’s not a supplement,” countered John Shaw, NPA executive director and CEO. “The legitimate supplement industry ... wants the criminals selling these illegal drugs out of business.”

Last month, both industry groups announced their support behind the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act, a bill to protect consumers by providing the Drug Enforcement Administration with new enforcement tools to identify and quickly respond when new designer anabolic steroids are created and marketed as dietary supplements.

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