Is Revolving Door between FDA and Supplements Industry Keeping Dangerous Dietary Aids on the Market?

Thursday, April 09, 2015
Daniel Fabricant (photo: NPA)

The dietary supplements industry already has nearly free rein to sell products with little oversight. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has exacerbated that problem by relying on industry officials to run its oversight program.


The last two officials to run the FDA’s division of dietary supplement programs previously worked for the Natural Products Association (NPA), a trade group that has tried very hard to convince Congress not to create tougher standards for supplement makers. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, the FDA doesn’t review supplements, but can act only after complaints are made.


Daniel Fabricant, who ran the division from 2011 to 2014, was a senior executive at the NPA before joining the FDA. He has returned to the NPA as CEO.


“To have former officials in the supplement industry become the chief regulators of that industry at the FDA is like the fox guarding the hen house,” Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, told The New York Times.


The revolving door between the agency and industry has come up amid concerns about diet and workout supplements containing a powerful chemical, BMPEA, which is said to be nearly identical to amphetamine. Officials in Canada were so worried about the health risks of BMPEA that they ordered all supplements containing it off the market. The FDA, on the other hand, didn’t recall any products in the U.S. containing the chemical or even issue a health warning about it.


The agency was aware of BMPEA’s presence in supplements, but says it “does not identify a specific safety concern at this time.”


Supplements containing concentrated green tea have also been found to be dangerous, causing liver problems in some who use them.


State attorneys general are starting to investigate supplements with unlisted ingredients. Fourteen have asked Congress to investigate the supplements industry and give the FDA more power to regulate it.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Study Warns of Diet Supplement Dangers Kept Quiet by FDA (by Anahad O’Connor, New York Times)

An Amphetamine Isomer Whose Efficacy and Safety in Humans has Never Been Studied, β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), is found in Multiple Dietary Supplements (by Pieter A. Cohen, Clayton Bloszies, Caleb Yee and Roy Gerona, Wiley Online Library)

States Ask U.S. Congress to Launch Inquiry of Herbal Supplements (by Karen Freifeld, Reuters)

Spike in Harm to Liver Is Tied to Dietary Aids (by Anahad O’Connor, New York Times)

Many Herbal Supplements Don’t Contain the Ingredients They Claim (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

FDA Committee Endorses Controversial Weight-Loss Drug to Combat Alleged Obesity Epidemic (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Debbie Snowcroft 9 years ago
There's virtually no reliable scientific evidence that supplements are beneficial. The fact there's no effective government oversight to prevent harmful contamination is yet another reason to avoid supplements all together. They don't help. Contamination can certainly hurt. Don't take them.

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