Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Foot-Dragging Association

The FDA issued new rules today concerning the marketing of vitamins, herbal pills, and other dietary supplements. For the first time (!) manufacturers of these concoctions will now have to test their products to show that they actually contain the ingredients claimed on the labels. An LA Times article notes that the new rule took, "13 years to develop"--or in other words, the supplements industry fought even this meager level of oversight successfully for over a decade.

The largest group of these products--protein powders, testosterone boosters, creatine derivatives, thermogenics, etc.--are peddled by modern day snake oil salesmen as supplements to improve athletic performance. Millions of people cheerfully shell out billions of dollars annually for these products. What is most interesting to me about this phenomenon is that the athletes who ingest these special pills and powders, supposedly chemically formulated to give them an extra advantage, for some reason do not equate this with "cheating" or "doping."

Moreover, no major sports regulatory body bans these dietary supplements either. It is certainly true that the supplement manufacturers spend a lot of money to lobby and protect their industry, but the fundamental reason why the supplements don't get banned is that they just don't work. If they worked, they would destabilize the sports like steroids threaten to, and there would be an uproar--a clamor for action. Chemicals that actually do enhance athletic performance are banned right away.

With the new regulations, you can now be assured that the product which claims to contain 200 mg of ginkgo biloba actually does. Unfortunately, you still have no assurance that ginkgo biloba actually does any of the miraculous stuff the manufacturers claim it does. Which leads me to wonder... If it took 13 years for the FDA just to make manufacturers of supplements list their ingredients correctly, how many decades will we have to wait before the FDA finally requires them to show their products work?

1 comment:

USWest said...

The problem with the FDA (and many other regulartory bodies) is four fold

1) It is understaffed. (like the IRS)
2) It is overly influenced by Big Ag and Big Pharma
3) Free trade has brought in so many new players, new imports, etc. that the FDA has not been able to keep up. (See 1 and 2)
4) The FDA was supposed to be regulartory body. But it has lost much of its authority (See 1-3 above) due to the fact that deregulation has weakened all of our govermment regulators.

So while it is nice to have some type of monitoring, I am not sure I trust the FDA to do much regarding supplements. The FDA can't stop Chinese firms from sending cheap pills over. At best, it can go after the importer, provided it has the staffing.

But according to the Republican Presidental candidates (I forget which two said this) over the next 10 years, the government is going to loose half its work force to retirement. To balance the budget, these candiates say that they won't replace those civil servants. So, I am not sure who will be left to regulate or even run the government. Their administrative assistants perhaps?