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This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

SEN. PRYOR EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR DIETARY SUPPLEMENT "CREATIVE SOLUTION" in a recent letter to Senate Labor & Human Resources Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). Sen. David Pryor (D- Ark.) urged that "a creative solution that respects the concerns and protects the interests of all involved and supports an individual's right to choose health care treatments, including nutritional supplements . . . be crafted." Pryor asked his colleague to "take timely action to reach such an accommodation" and offered his "help in any way that you believe would be constructive." Pryor said he believes that "all sides" in the dietary supplement debate "have reasonable arguments and concerns." He acknowledged that concerns about the "legitimacy of health claims" and "safe manufacturing" of dietary supplements "seem appropriate," but added: "Given that historically the FDA has not been supportive of the nutritional supplement industry, concerns about the FDA's oversight of these products appear to be well- founded." Pryor also said he hoped Kennedy and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) could "work with the relevant federal agencies and with the interested parties to resolve the discrepancies." In a similar letter to Kennedy in September, a group of 10 senators urged the committee chairman to devise a "creative solution" for dietary supplement legislation ("The Tan Sheet" Oct. 11, p. 6). The interest of Pryor, who is chairman of the Senate Aging Committee and is active in the health care arena, in the supplement issue indicates that momentum continues to build in the Senate towards resolution of the dietary supplement legislation impasse. There is no evidence of similar activity in the House. While the Senate passed an additional four-month moratorium on FDA implementation of dietary supplement regulations under the Nutrition Labeling & Education Act on Nov. 20, the House was not able to reach any agreement before going into recess for the rest of the year ("The Tan Sheet" Nov. 29, p. 1). The current moratorium on FDA implementation of the regs expires at the end of December, when agency officials anticipate that final dietary supplement regs will be issued. Staffers of Sen. Hatch indicated that discussions on dietary supplement compromise legislation would continue during the current recess, at least within the Senate Labor & Human Resources Committee. Once Senate support for a compromise measure has been attained, staffers expect to begin discussions with House members. Efforts to advance Rep. Bill Richardson's (D-N.M.) industry- supported dietary supplement bill (HR 1709) and to extend the moratorium on FDA regulations during the first session were blocked by House Energy & Commerce/health subcommittee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Waxman proposed a bill (HR 3650) on Nov. 22 that provided a six-month extension to the moratorium but also included provisions that were opposed by HR 1709 supporters. In a Nov. 26 statement on the "shortcomings" of the Waxman bill, Richardson complained that the legislation has a "narrow definition of dietary supplement," and does "not completely dispel concerns about access to dietary supplements." Waxman, in a Nov. 22 statement on the House floor, declared that the opposition to his bill "demonstrates the total irrationality that pervades the debate about dietary supplements." He concluded that "it is my hope that next year we will be able to resolve these issues in a way that both assures consumers access to these products but prohibits manufacturers from making health claims that are not supported by good scientific evidence." In the meantime, Sen. Hatch and Reps. Richardson and Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) are attempting to schedule a meeting with HHS Secretary Shalala to seek a delay in the implementation of FDA's June 18 advance notice of proposed rulemaking for dietary supplements ("The Tan Sheet" Nov. 29, p. 3).

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