In a move to blunt efforts to repeal the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, supps industry leaders are urging retailers to support legislation that would regulate androstenedione and other steroid precursors as drugs.
Senate Bill 1780, introduced in October 2003 by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., would reclassify steroids and their precursors under the Controlled Substances Act. The Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2003 would update legislation passed in 1990, adding andro, THG and other new concoctions to the controlled-substance list.
The issue received renewed attention when President Bush spoke out against steroid use in his State of the Union address in January.
?The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message,? Bush said.
The mention in Bush?s speech was ?remarkable,? and signals that the former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball club takes a personal interest in the issue, said supplements expert Loren Israelsen.
Israelsen expects the Biden legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and four others, to be introduced as a House bill this year. If the identical bills pass both houses of Congress, they will not need a conference committee and thus can go swiftly to the president for his signature.
Supplements industry leaders hope that the Biden bill, along with the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban on ephedra, will prove that the industry and regulators are capable of dealing with unsafe products and disreputable companies, and thus quell the movement to rewrite DSHEA.
?You?ll hear many different views,? said Israelsen, executive director of Utah Natural Products Alliance. ?All the way from, ?Not a comma in DSHEA should be changed,? to ?The whole thing should be repealed.??
Israelsen is all for stricter regulations. The FDA should, he said, use its authority. Rewriting DSHEA, however, is not necessary.
?Our industry would be, I think, critical of the FDA?s lack of enforcement,? he said. ?I would say there remain products on the retail shelf that probably do not meet their label claims. That is in violation of DSHEA, clearly. I view that as a shame on us, shame on them problem. Shame on us for letting it happen, shame on the FDA for doing nothing about it.?
Biden?s bill makes it easier for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to add steroids and precursors to the controlled substances list, and also provides funding for research and for education directed particularly at young male athletes.
S.B. 722, introduced in March 2003 by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., insists on DSHEA?s revision, calling for a drastic overhaul in the way adverse events with supplements are reported by companies and tracked by the FDA. Durbin?s bill is in committee. Also aimed at tightening regulation on supplements is House Bill 3377, introduced in October 2003 by Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif. It, too, is in committee.
S.B. 1538, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, suggests DSHEA?s only shortcoming is a lack of FDA funding for enforcement. It calls for a five-year plan that sets aside $20 million in 2004 and increases to $65 million by 2008.
The movement to ban andro is key to convincing lawmakers that the FDA already has enough power, said David Seckman, executive director of the National Nutritional Foods Association in Washington, D.C. ?What we?ve always claimed for years is that the FDA has had the authority under DSHEA to go ahead and ban unsafe products,? he said. ?They?ve finally publicly agreed with that by deciding they are going to ban a particular product.?
Anthony Almada, president of Imaginutrition in Laguna Niguel, Calif., said some degree of regulation is a must for supplements retailers and their customers.
?Going into a health food store, it?s like going into a church: ?I hope and pray that this product will lead me to nirvana or heaven of body weight, heaven of muscle mass or heaven of arthritis pain relief.? It?s all evangelism,? he said.
?Where is the dividing line between the drug world and the dietary supplement world? It?s called evidence done by independent, not financially conflicted experts.?
Michael BeDan is a free-lance writer and standup comic in Denver.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 3/p. 13, 30