New IOM Report Calls for Amending DSHEA

A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies calls for complementary and alternative treatments to be subject to the same standards for demonstrating clinical effectiveness as medical treatments. The report was particularly critical of dietary supplements and called on Congress to amend the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) to increase consumer protection, improve quality control and advance research.

“We agree with the IOM that the law governing dietary supplements should provide adequate safeguards for consumers, allow for quality standards and foster research,” said David Seckman, NNFA’s executive director and CEO. “Where we disagree is that we believe DSHEA already allows for the necessary oversight of dietary supplements and doesn’t need to be changed, just fully implemented.”

Seckman added that in regard to research, DSHEA authorized the creation of the Office of Dietary Supplements under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in order to promote scientific research.

According to the chair of the committee that produced the IOM report, all health care should be “grounded in the best available scientific evidence” and “the same research principles and standards for showing effectiveness” applied to mainstream and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments. Dietary supplements, the report says, are “problematic” because their safety and efficacy has not been subjected to adequate scientific investigation. Additionally, the report highlights concerns about false or exaggerated supplement claims, stating that about 40 percent of adults who use these products do so without the advice of a physician.

"The law is clear that dietary supplements on the market must be not only safe, but the claims made about them be truthful and not misleading,” said Seckman. “The issue here is enforcement since adequate authority already exists for both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ensure that companies comply with the law.”

Answering questions at a press conference held for the release of the report, IOM panelists said that specific recommendations about altering DSHEA were not in the scope of the report and that it was Congress' responsibility to decide how to amend the law. Moreover, they would not comment on how they felt supplements should be reclassified, if at all.

Additionally, while recognizing that DSHEA has not been fully implemented and acknowledging the more than 10 year wait for the FDA to establish good manufacturing practices for dietary supplements, the panel agreed that even if fully implemented, DSHEA would still not require adequate information on manufacturing practices in their view.

Although the IOM report makes a specific plea to lawmakers to change DSHEA, Congress is not required to take official action or respond. Seckman cautioned, however, that DSHEA’s critics would likely make use of the report’s findings in support of introducing potentially negative legislation.

The full report from the IOM can be read online at:

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