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Senator John McCain (R)McCain-Dorgan bill aims to change dietary supplement regulation, industry raises strong opposition; McCain backs away

US Senator John McCain (R-AZ)and US Senator Bryan Dorgan (D-ND) introduced the Dietary Supplement Safety Action of 2010 that would significantly impact the regulation of dietary supplements. The bill was greeted with significant opposition by industry, practitioner and consumer organizations. These argue that the bill will drive up costs and limit access to consumers for products that are already safer than most drugs. The Council for Responsible Nutrition position is linked here and that from the American Herbal Products Association is here. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians generated 2000 practitioner letters. The Alliance for Natural Health-USA has stirred up vigorous opposition, eliciting over 35,000 pieces of electronic mail, according to Gretchen DuBeau, the organization’s executive director. Asserts DuBeau: “If passed as written, this bill would likely result in the disappearance from store shelves of many supplements currently on the market, and unbridled authority would be handed to the FDA, an agency that needs a top to bottom overhaul, not ever more power over our lives.” McCain is aware of the antagonism and has responded with a statement on the Senate floor. He states that the bill was introduced based on requests from numerous professional and amateur sports organizations. The debate breaks over whether the bill fundamentally shifts regulation of supplements and will limit consumer access; McCain says yes, the industry and related groups say no. A thoughtful column on the bill by Integrator columnist Michael Levin in which he poses a potentially useful regulatory strategy is posted here. [Note: At publication, ANH sent a note to their list indicating that following a meeting with US Senator Orrin Hatch, McCain has backed away from his advocacy. Dorgan’s next steps are not known.]

Comment: Asked if McCain’s bill would significantly impact consumer access to dietary supplements, policy panel members at the February 25, 2010 session of the Integrative Healthcare Symposium unanimously agreed that it would, with additional commentary that there are reasons to better regulate the industry. The mantra from opponents, including Levin, is that rather than a new law, better to enforce the