HEALTH

Senators propose DHEA Abuse Reduction Act of 2007

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Tuesday announced a set of proposals that in part would make it illegal to sell dehydroepiandrosterone, a supplement touted for both its anti-aging and muscle mass boosting claims, without a prescription.

Specifically, the bill, S. 2470, or the Dehydroepiandrosterone Abuse Reduction Act of 2007 proposes to amend the Controlled Substances Act to prevent the access of DHEA to minors and create penalties to those who would provide DHEA to minors.

“DHEA is a precursor steroid hormone to testosterone that is banned by all professional sports leagues, except Major League Baseball,” Grassley told reporters at a press conference Tuesday. “The opponents of my legislation will tell you that DHEA does nothing to kids, but studies reveal this isn’t the case. When taken in high doses over time, DHEA, like its relatives in the steroid family, may cause liver damage and cancer,” he said. “What is even more disturbing is the fact that DHEA is being marketed online to kids. One bodybuilding website, directed towards teenagers, features a teen bodybuilder of the week to promote performance-enhancing drugs. The person you see in this chart is a former Junior National Champion bodybuilder. When asked what supplement gave him the greatest gains for his competition this teenager replied ‘DHEA.’”

 “We strongly oppose the attempt to restrict access to a legal and safe supplement product—DHEA—under the guise of protecting consumers from ‘performance-enhancing drugs,’” countered Steve Mister, president and chief executive officer of the Council of Responsible Nutrition. “There is no evidence that DHEA is being abused by minors nor is there evidence that DHEA works as a performance-enhancing product in young healthy adults,” he said. “This bill would in no way address the problem of illegal anabolic steroid use. In short, this proposed legislation is a solution in search of a problem.”

Many manufacturers of DHEA supplements already recommend on their labels that children under the age of 18 not use the supplements, Mister added.

Unlike anabolic steroids, DHEA is naturally produced and is the most common steroid hormone in the body, CRN noted. The body tightly regulates the conversion of DHEA, preventing excess production of testosterone—essentially the body recognizes when it is already achieving normal hormone levels and thus ‘ignores’ the additional DHEA.

Hundreds of thousands of older adults safely and responsibly use DHEA due to their bodies’ inability to effectively produce healthy hormone levels on their own. According to CRN, DHEA has promising use to help support immune function, maintain cognitive function and elevate mood, improve sleep patterns, maintain strong bones and normalize glucose metabolism.

But Grassley has singled out DHEA before, calling for an out-and-out ban of the supplement, and this latest bill seems to be a compromise. “I have introduced two bills in the past that would make DHEA a controlled substance, but I realize that many people use this product legitimately,” Grassley said. “I think it’s important that we at least make sure that our children do not have access to DHEA. So, the bill I introduced just last week will make the sale of DHEA to individuals under the age of 18 a civil offense.”

The need for the series of regulations was prompted by the release last week of the Mitchell Report, a report that identified several prominent professional Major League Baseball players who allegedly cheated by taking performance-enhancing anabolic steroids and/or human growth hormone supplements.

“The real tragedy of the Mitchell Report is that it shows how easy it is to beat the system,” Schumer stated. “The majority of players named in the report are accused of taking human growth hormone, a drug for which there is currently no reliable test. We have to do everything we can to keep dangerous substances out of young hands. Together, these two bills [the second bill would classify HGH as a Schedule III controlled substance] are a big step in that direction.”

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HEALTH

GSK education initiative for alli to focus on expert advice

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH Because it’s a different kind of “diet aid” that’s advertised as “not for everyone,” GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare this week announced plans for a different kind of New Year campaign to appeal to the many consumers resolving to lose weight in 2008.

According to a new survey of 2,058 adults, conducted in late November by Harris Interactive on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline, 52 percent of Americans say they plan to make a serious attempt to lose weight next year.

GlaxoSmithKline is underwriting free access to expert advice from healthcare professionals as part of its promotion of alli, as opposed to billboarding the sexy before-and-after pictures of successful dieters typical of the category.

“Millions of overweight and obese Americans are incredibly frustrated with their efforts to lose weight, and unrealistic expectations and false hope feed that frustration,” stated Steven Burton, vice president, weight control, for GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. “Our goal is to give dieters the knowledge they need to make informed decisions and to help them identify weight-loss strategies that are safe, effective and proven to help them lose weight.”

Dieters value such support, GlaxSmithKline stated, though they rarely take advantage of it—73 percent of U.S. adults who plan to make a serious attempt to lose weight in 2008 believe that outside help from a dietitian, pharmacist or other healthcare professional would help them achieve their weight loss goals, but only 13 percent plan to seek such support.

From Jan. 4-7, alli will sponsor “Make This Year Different,” a weight-loss event designed to ease some of the barriers to seeking expert advice and to help overweight adults benefit from the counsel of healthcare professionals. 

Dieters older than 18 can access that free healthcare advice with one phone call—866-551-DIFFERENT, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.—and will be connected to an actual dietitian or pharmacist. Pre-recorded diet, nutrition, behavioral and exercise tips will also be available through the phone line, and that information will remain accessible through Jan. 31.

Individuals can also visit www.MakeThisYearDifferent.com between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST for live online chats with dietitians or pharmacists, in either a private or group chat room discussion. The web site will also feature diet and exercise videos and answers to common questions about the alli weight-loss program.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare announced in October that it had sold more than 2 million alli starter packs at retail.

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Maker of GlucaSafe plans PR blast in 2008

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN ANTONIO Sweet Success Enterprises, maker of the diabetes-friendly beverage GlucaSafe, plans to step up advertising in the New Year in several key markets, the company announced Tuesday.

“With the completion of our clinical trial by the end of the year, we are going to be well-armed to begin a stepped up local area marketing campaign beginning in the Chicago area including most of the major markets in the north where our product is being sold,” stated William Gallagher, Sweet Success chief executive officer. “This will include interviews with local and national publications and installing our 30-second diabetes video both in-stores and on local diabetes websites.”

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