On World Standards Day, Oct. 14, the international standards community celebrates that which ensures products do what they should, from plugs fitting in sockets to medicines containing the proper ingredients. Standards facilitate commerce, protect property and promote public health.
The United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) sets quality standards for medicines and dietary supplements. Even though the same process is used to create both standards, the two categories are regulated differently. Medicines sold in the U.S. are required to comply with USP’s official quality standards to ensure a given medicine will be of similar quality regardless of where it is made or by whom.
USP standards, however, are voluntary for supplement manufacturers. On this year's World Standards Day, USP is calling for wider use of public standards among dietary supplement producers. Standardized quality of medicines in the United States has promoted and protected public health for nearly 200 years and the Convention supports the same protections for dietary supplement consumers.
With the AARP, Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Convention highlights some benefits of standardization, including tests that define quality attributes such as identity, potency, purity and performance.
“Without any industry oversight, we cannot guarantee that what the label says on the bottle is actually in the bottle,” said Dr. Daniel Neides, medical director of Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. Neides recommends brands that are clearly marked with the USP label because consumers will know what each capsule contains.
Sarah Erush, PharmD, BCPS, pharmacy clinical manager at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the hospital’s Therapeutic Standards Committee agreed. “Studies have shown that in some supplements the amounts can vary greatly from pill to pill. Dosage is important, especially for children,” she said.
Quality is equally important to consumers.
"AARP is aware that dietary supplements are increasingly popular among older Americans," said Leigh Purvis of AARP's Public Policy Institute. "Consequently, we are very concerned by reports that raise questions about quality. For example, some products marketed as 'all-natural supplements' have been found to contain active pharmaceuticals. That's one reason why AARP supports public quality standards for dietary supplements and encourages consumers to look for supplements whose quality has been verified by an independent third party like USP."