HEALTH

CRN head weighs in on dietary supplement industry attack in USA Today op-ed

BY Michael Johnsen

McLEAN, Va. The Council for Responsible Nutrition’s president and CEO Steve Mister supplied the “opposing view” to a USA Today opinion piece published online Thursday regarding a recent Consumer Reports attack on the dietary supplement industry.

At issue is the public misconception that dietary supplements are unregulated. “While many users believe that sale of unsafe or ineffective supplements must be illegal, it is not,” USA Today opined, citing the Consumer Reports report. “The public has little protection from useless, fraudulent, dangerous or even deadly products, thanks to special protection Congress gave the industry in 1994.”

“Truth is, the Food and Drug Administration already has ample authority to regulate this industry,” Mister countered. “What it needs to do is use it. Look how quickly [the FDA] removed a popular weight-loss product last year, and how aggressively it targeted false cures for H1N1 influenza. [The] FDA can seize adulterated supplements, detain questionable ingredients at the border, ban products that pose significant risks of injury or illness and use criminal sanctions of the Food Drug & Cosmetic Act to prosecute those who market unsafe supplements.”

Opinions of regulation aside, Consumer Reports outlined problems with a dozen considered-to-be-dangerous herbal supplements — none of which would make any mass retailer’s bestseller list. “The media circus surrounding the latest issue of Consumer Reports implicates the entire aisle of mainstream dietary supplements based on 12 ingredients that combined make up less than 1% of the marketplace,” Mister noted. “Yet given the attention, one would think these 12 herbs represent the mainstream dietary supplement aisle at your neighborhood pharmacy. They do not. If any of these 12 ingredients is truly unsafe, then [the] FDA should ban its use,” Mister added.

“Spokesmen for the self-described ‘responsible’ part of the industry claim that the limited powers given the [FDA] are adequate to protect the public,” USA Today wrote. “But the record says otherwise. It’s so hard for [the] FDA to ban a product, that only one such case has ever succeeded,” the opinion continued, referencing the ban on ephedra sales in 2004.

However, two of the “supplement-use horror stories” cited by USA Today to support its argument don’t involve supplements at all, but illegally marketed adulterated drugs. In one case, USA Today identified a student athlete who bought a performance supplement online purporting to be legal and later wound up in the hospital with liver failure due to the steroid included within the supplement. However, a product adulterated with an illegal steroid, by definition, is an adulterated drug product, regardless of how it is marketed.

In another case cited by USA Today, an Oklahoma woman bought a treatment for Lyme disease that turned her skin blue. Again, according to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 that the USA Today opinion suggested protects industry, supplement manufacturers cannot legally make disease-state claims.

“People will always yearn for a magic elixir, which is why supplements, like drugs, shouldn’t be allowed on store shelves [until] they’ve been proven safe and effective,” the USA Today opinion piece concluded.

“Calls for premarket approval show a disregard for consumers who want access to a wide variety of supplement products,” Mister countered. “Consumers should talk to their doctors or other healthcare professionals about any of the supplements they use to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That’s good advice regardless of the law.”

For the full USA Today opinion, click here.

For CRN’s full response, click here.

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HEALTH

Emergen-C wants Facebook, Twitter users to ‘share the good’

BY Michael Johnsen

FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif. Alacer, maker of Emergen-C, on Wednesday announced the launch of its “Share the Good” social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

The “Share the Good” application on Facebook allows people to call out their friends’ low energy statuses, such as “Fell asleep at my desk” or “Dragging through the work day,” and share both virtual and real packets of Emergen-C vitamin drink mix with as many as 10 friends. When friends request their free Emergen-C Starter Kit, they’ll also watch a personalized video, featuring their profile picture and status update.

“People all over Facebook are crying for help, and you can see it in their statuses,” stated Ken Vargha, VP marketing at Alacer. “In the real world we see lots of people sharing Emergen-C with friends and family when they need health and energy support. As more of our social interactions are going digital, we want our consumers to be able to share Emergen-C vitamin drink mix through social media as well.”

As part of its “Share the Good” campaign, the Emergen-C brand also is “dusting off” its Twitter account, the company stated. Poking fun at the fact that it had previously tweeted only one time in 365 days, the brand will thank its mere 10 followers for their loyalty with a T-shirt featuring the Emergen-C brand’s single, year-old tweet: “checking out Joshua Lynn’s article.”

Going forward, Emergen-C Tweet Patrol will be searching across Twitter for low-energy tweets and sending those tweeters free Emergen-C packets. Alacer will also be sharing energy-boosting tips, health facts and trivia, upcoming events and more with its Twitter followers. Additionally, the Emergen-C Tweet Patrol will reward random Twitter followers who tweet keywords –– including  “tired” or “Emergen-C” –– with a free Emergen-C Starter Kit.

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OTC business model drives Prestige Brands’ growth

BY Michael Johnsen

IRVINGTON, N.Y. Prestige Brands credited the strength of its over-the-counter business model for its 20% increase in net income to $9.6 million for its first quarter ended June 30. Total revenues for the quarter reached $73.4 million, up 3%.

“This quarter’s results affirm the strength of our core OTC business model and the overall direction of our strategic plan,” stated Matthew Mannelly, Prestige president and CEO. “We are pleased with the growth of our core OTC brands as well as their long-term potential. We remain confident in achieving our long-term goals, however, we are realistic about the overall economic environment and the challenges we face for the full year,” he said. “In particular, given last years’ heavy retailer buy-in of cough/cold products in anticipation of H1N1, the second quarter will be challenging from a revenue standpoint. Retailers have told us as well as our competitors that this buy-in will not be repeated this year in the second quarter.”

Net revenues of $44.3 million for the OTC segment were 10% higher than the prior-year comparable period results of $40.3 million. The increase was driven by sales of Clear Eyes, Compound W, Wartner, New Skin, Murine Tears, Percogesic and Sleep-Eze in Canada, partially offset by decreases on the Allergen Block products and Earigate.

Of the company’s six core brands, five are in the OTC segment. These include Chloraseptic, Clear Eyes, Compound W, Little Remedies, and The Doctor’s NightGuard. Revenues for these core OTC brands were up 16% in the aggregate over the prior-year comparable quarter.

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