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SEN. KENNEDY URGED TO DEVISE "CREATIVE SOLUTION" FOR DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

SEN. KENNEDY URGED TO DEVISE "CREATIVE SOLUTION" FOR DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS regulation by a group of 10 senators. In a Sept. 30 letter to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the senators suggested "that all sides have reasonable arguments and concerns and we hope that you and Sen. Hatch can work with the relevant federal agencies and with the interested parties to arrive at a creative solution that respects the concerns and protects the interests of all involved and supports an individual's right to choose their health care treatment, including the use of nutritional supplements." The senators -- Harris Wofford (D-Penn.), Patrick Leahy (D- Vt.), Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), George Mitchell (D-Maine), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Russell Feingold (D- Wisc.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) -- offered their support "in reaching such an accommodation and stand ready to help in any way that you believe would be constructive." The 10 senators are not cosponsors of the industry-supported legislation introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The letter from the 10 senators illustrates the difficulty facing members of Congress in finding a middle ground in the dietary supplements debate that supports some form of FDA regulation without drawing the ire of the dietary supplement industry's grass roots support. Dietary supplement regulation, the group of senators stated, "has become a very difficult issue in which reasonable and legitimate concerns collide." They suggested that concerns "about the legitimacy of health claims" for dietary supplements, about FDA's regulatory role, and about whether consumers are receiving "accurate and reliable information . . . seem appropriate." "On the other hand," they continued, "over the past several months each of us has been contacted by literally thousands of constituents about this issue. We have heard testimonials about the beneficial effects" of supplements and have "repeatedly heard the fear that such regulation might make nutritional supplement products unavailable." Given that "historically" FDA "has not been supportive of the nutritional supplements industry," the group maintained that "these constituents have real concerns about the FDA's oversight of these products." The senators concluded their letter to Kennedy by stating: "We do not believe that the federal government should reduce an individual's ability to seek the course of treatment that they choose or to promote personal health." Kennedy is faced with the formidable task of putting together a dietary supplement bill that would have the support of many of the 59 senators already signed on to Hatch's bill. In fashioning a compromise, Kennedy is understood to be looking closely at how to define the scientific standard for dietary supplement health claims. Kennedy's Labor & Human Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing on dietary supplement regulation on Oct. 21. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy Commerce/health subcommitee, has more leeway. Waxman is understood to be floating a draft bill that, in contrast to the Hatch bill and its companion introduced by Rep. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), would provide FDA with many of the regulatory tools in the dietary supplement area that the agency wants.
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