AHPA responds to inaccurate Newsweek article

McGuffin criticizes a recent article for mischaracterizing the supplement industry as having "little regulation" and not differentiating legal supplements from tainted products.

AHPA President Michael McGuffin sent a letter to the editors of Newsweek in response to a Nov. 15 article, "So Many Supplements, So Little Regulations." In the letter, McGuffin criticizes the article for inaccurately characterizing the supplement industry as having "little regulation," failing to differentiate between legal supplements and tainted products marketed as supplements and presenting conclusions from an article that used an untested method to evaluate the quality supplements.

Dear Editor:

I'm writing to express several concerns about the article, “So Many Supplements, So Little Regulations," published on Nov. 15.

The article's headline inaccurately depicts the herbal and dietary supplement industry as having little regulation. In reality, numerous regulations—including facility registration, product claims, manufacturing practices, and serious adverse event reporting, among others—dictate what supplement companies must do to comply with the law. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibits the sale of adulterated and misbranded drugs and foods, including dietary supplements and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is authorized to take action, including criminal prosecution, against any company making or selling adulterated or misbranded products.

The article also inaccurately describes Reumofan—an illegal drug product that is unlawfully marketed as a dietary supplement—as a supplement. It is unlawful for Reumofan and other drug adulterated products to be marketed as dietary supplements and FDA accurately refers to these products as “tainted products marketed as dietary supplements.” Companies involved in these types of unlawful activities are actively evading current laws and regulations. Continuing enforcement of current laws and regulations, including criminal prosecution, would most effectively address these situations.

The article presents findings from a recent DNA barcoding analysis of supplements even though this analysis technique has not been validated for the identification of each of the tested botanicals. This is an emerging technology and there are still many questions about the effectiveness and limitations of this method. DNA testing has the potential to be useful in the future when it has been rigorously tested, but blanket assertions about the accuracy of this novel analytical tool are premature.

I appreciate your attention to these concerns.

Michael McGuffin
American Herbal Product Association (AHPA)

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