The New York Times posted a letter to the editor submitted by AHPA President Michael McGuffin on Dec. 17 that counters questionable statistics used in a recent opinion piece about the number and implication of adverse events associated with dietary supplements.
AHPA's letter was in response to a Dec. 14 opinion piece "Skip the Supplements," by outspoken supplement critics Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the infectious diseases division at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Dr. Sarah Erush, clinical manager of the pharmacy department at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The article stated that, "FDA estimates that approximately 50,000 adverse reactions to dietary supplements occur every year."
AHPA's letter notes that this statistic is questionable because it is based on an estimate made before the passage of the adverse event reporting law which AHPA vocally supported. The letter also notes that there is no causal relationship implied by adverse event reports.
McGuffin's letter also highlights that the focus by Drs. Offit and Erush on adulterated products that FDA has removed from the market using current regulations and authority does not support the authors' contention that supplements should be regulated as drugs.
"Despite supplements' long track record of safety, the article highlights rare examples of products that were adulterated and were quickly taken off the market," McGuffin wrote. "Ignoring the fact that these examples demonstrate how current regulations enforced by FDA keep dangerous products off the market, the writers suggest that supplements be regulated like drugs. But these products are not drugs and should not be regulated as drugs."
AHPA will continue to monitor media outlets for misinformation and set the record straight as appropriate.