Letters To The Editor

?Tale of little fish? teaches important lesson
In his inspiring article ?The tale of the little fish? (FFN March), Joerg Gruenwald analyses the strategies big pharmaceutical firms (?big fish sellers?) use against ?small fish (herbal supplements) sellers? to dominate the market, with a focus on two: compromising the small fish by alleging their ineffectiveness and harmfulness, and cutting off the supply of small fish.

In just about every sector of the consumable goods market, small merchants are getting hit by big companies. Wal-Mart gets blamed for pricing out small shops, Microsoft for suppressing alternative operational systems, Ford in his time was criticized for driving minute carmakers out of business.

Now dietary supplements manufacturers experience a similar fate, and taking tips from those who have been there before may help. For example, small fish sellers may take responsibility for not doing enough to combat knock-off small fish frequently responsible for false accusations or misrepresentations of real small fish. A ?knock-off fish??is actually?a synthetic drug but is advertised as a natural product.?It may compromise the safety and efficiency of natural products and cause obvious negative effects for the dietary supplements market. And so it does.

The availability of synthetic analogues of several kava ingredients, which may be misrepresented as a natural product, raise the question of their responsibility for hepatotoxic effects allegedly associated with kava supplements in several European countries.

Failure to protect the natural products market from artificial analogues may be responsible to a significant degree for sufferings of another ?small fish?—ephedra. Formulations made with synthetic ephedrine (one of the main ephedra active ingredients) were continuously marketed under the ephedra name, in spite of existing differentiating tests and accumulating evidence of differences in physiological effects. Complications and adverse reactions, most probably incurred by users of products formulated with synthetic ephedrine, eventually triggered the ban on ephedra in the US. In fact, not a single reference was found associating adverse reaction with the natural ephedra product. Not even mentioning tryptophan, these examples may prompt small fish sellers to get worried about the knock-off fish problem before FDA has to resolve it in a less selective and more drastic way.

Alex Y Korneyev, PhD
Floraleads GR
Cary, North Carolina

Ephedra ban will hurt customers and companies
I wish to take issue with your article ?Ephedra ban gets warm welcome? (FFN April). Obviously you did not apply sufficient time to research the topic in depth.

Herbs containing ephedrine alkaloids have been used successfully for several thousand years. There are 2,000 years of written, documented history. It is a difficult concept to grasp since many of us only register time by the number of years we have been alive on this earth. In only the past 25 or so years, a few companies have incorrectly used one herb, ma huang, mixing it with herbs containing caffeine to produce products that have harmed people. (Remember in traditional healing: First do no harm?)

So what does the uninformed public, including some ?respected? trade publications do? Side with regulatory powers to ban all ephedrine alkaloid-containing herbs. Wouldn?t it be more appropriate to research how an herb should be used and to impose sanctions against specific companies incorrectly using the herb? Or is there too much money in it for you?

My customers will suffer greatly from these get-rich companies who have spoiled this herb. Now how about the correct use of bitter orange, or are you getting too many advertising dollars from these companies?

Curtis Jacquot
Pacific BioLogic Co
Clayton, California

The news editor replies:
Our story does not ?side with regulatory powers,? it merely reports the reaction of the major supplements industry groups to the ban. Perhaps you should let?these groups?know of your company?s position on this, if you feel you are not being represented.

You say, ?My customers will suffer greatly from these get-rich companies who have spoiled this herb.? You are undoubtedly right, and many other responsible companies who used to trade in ephedra (including some who continue to advertise in this magazine) have been similarly affected.

Unfortunately, this is the very reality that led to the FDA?s ban and?the supplements?industry?acceptance of?the ban because, regardless of whether you believe that ephedra is a public hazard,?industry took the position?that ephedra had been too badly tarnished in the public eye by these very??get-rich companies,? and therefore in the interest of preserving the industry?s good reputation, decided not to oppose?the prohibition.

To my knowledge, no such position has been taken in regard to bitter orange.

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