A literature review article published February 1 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated once again how deep the misunderstandings over herbal supplements and how these products are regulated runs in the United States—and how important the work of industry trade groups, such as the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), to refute such misunderstandings is today. The article, titled “Use of Herbal Products and Potential Interactions in Patients with Cardiovascular Disease,” warned that herbal supplements may be dangerous for people taking heart disease medication. It also argued that there is a general lack of science proving the safety and effectiveness of herbs.
CRN quickly responded to the review article, which triggered a round of negative mainstream news stories on the risk of herbal supplements. “This article represents a biased, poorly written and contrived attack on herbal supplements,” said Douglas MacKay, ND, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at CRN. “We question how a peer-reviewed publication would even accept an article such as this, given the fact that the authors make conclusions about ‘herbal remedies’ based on their own uninformed, inaccurate, and outdated interpretation of the law which covers dietary supplements, including herbal supplements. The article contains sweeping generalizations, often not backed by relevant citations, and copious factual errors, including a reference to products—some of which are not actually herbal supplements—that produce adverse effects on the cardiovascular system.”
CRN went on to point out how U.S. supplement regulations have been strengthened by the implementation of good manufacturing practices and the serious adverse event reporting law for all dietary supplements. “In the first full year that the law requiring manufacturers to report serious adverse events was in effect, FDA reported receiving 1,080 adverse event reports, only 672 of which were considered serious—for all dietary supplement products,” MacKay noted. “For the same year, FDA received over 526,000 adverse event reports related to drugs and biologic products, over 300,000 of which were considered serious, including close to 50,000 deaths.”
In a bit of good news for the industry, CRN’s communication efforts on this article reached reporters, many of whom included at least some of MacKay’s comments in their news pieces. It is this type of outreach that earned CRN a 2009 Education Award from Nutrition Business Journal. Media education was a key focus last year for CRN, which engaged with reporters and responded to inaccurate stories about the industry or the safety of supplements.
Such efforts help address a major concern for responsible supplement companies: protecting and enhancing consumer confidence, said Randi Neiner, director of market research for Shaklee Corp. “CRN has taken a responsible, fact-based approach to informing writers about the supplement industry and to correcting communications that misrepresent the industry,” Neiner told NBJ. “They continually correct the misunderstanding that our industry is not regulated and respond to misrepresentations of research results that are inconclusive or not representative of the totality of available data. They cite good science that supports responsible supplementation, while at the same time communicating our industry's ongoing concern over questionable ingredients, studies and claims. This serves not only our industry but the consumer as well.”
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