John McCain has introduced yet another bill to get the FDA to regulate nutritional supplements. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 321) could deny Americans freedom of access and mandate a doctor’s prescription for many dietary supplements.
Nutritional supplements have been under attack for a couple of decades. Every few years there is a push to regulate them. Fortunately, those efforts have always failed in the past.
Suzanne Somers has been fighting FDA control of suppliments for some time. As she correctly points out, the FDA did an internal study of themselves a couple of years ago and basically came to the conclusion that they lack the scientific capability and competence to evaluate new drugs and medical devices. A big reason why prescription drugs are so costly in America is because the pharmaceutical companies are at the mercy of the incompetent FDA, who takes too long to conduct drug trials.
Mandating that the FDA regulate nutritional suppliments will drive up their cost, as it has for pharmaceuticals. It will also deny Americans the freedom to do what they think is best to keep themselves healthy.
Obviously, we do need an independent body to verify the safety of potentially dangerous prescription drugs and the claims made by their manufacturers. However, that doesn't mean that we need the government to do it.
Have you ever looked at a piece of equipment or a label on an electrical chord and seen the letters UL? Underwriters Laboratories is private company that certifies products for safety and compliance with standards. Manufacturers pay UL to certify their products so that both the manufacturers themselves and their customers know that the company has delivered a safe, quality, product that is compliant with the relevant standards. The range of things they certify is stunning -- appliances; building materials; chemicals; equipment related to the production and distribution of food, water, and energy; high tech equipment; medical devices; and more.
If a product UL certifies turns out to be unsafe, the consumer can seek redress from both the manufacturer and UL. So, UL has every incentive to ensure that the products they certify are safe. Can you sue the FDA for allowing a dangerous drug on the market? Not really.
We could apply the same type of model to pharmaceuticals. Yes, require pharmaceutical companies to get certification for their new drugs. But allow private companies like UL and others to compete to provide that certification. The certification companies would complete by keeping up with the science and latest testing techniques, which would streamline the certification process, speed time to market, and lower drug costs. In the end, we'd also be safer with competing private certification companies than we are with the incompetent bureaucrats in the FDA.
The answer to the the mess the FDA created is right in front of us, but once again, neither political party is willing to make any real changes to the system at all.
In the meantime, we all need to tell the politicans to keep their sticky fingers off of our vitamins.