Prescriptions or supplements and good food — What would Hippocrates think?

Since 2008, the supplement industry has been required to report adverse events to the FDA’s AER system. Consider the following statistics comparing dietary supplement AERs with drug AERs (from the 2013 GAO report):

  • From 2008 to 2011, FDA received 6,307 AERs for dietary supplements, not including 1,000 AERs that were submitted to poison control centers, rather than the FDA3
  • In 2008, 1,080 dietary supplement AERs were reported to FDA
  • In 2008, 526,527 prescription drug AERs were reported
  • In 2008, 26,517 vaccine AERs were reported

When you do the math, there were 488 times as many adverse events reported from prescription drugs as from dietary supplements!

In the 1990’s, Dr. Laibow estimated that for every dollar spent on supplements in the United States (approximately $20 billion last year according to Andrew Weil, M.D.) the cost to the pharmaceutical industry is about $40. So the more supplements people buy, the lfewer drugs they buy. Upon observing societal trends, it seems that more and more people are using natural health products. Over 80% of Americans routinely use nutritional supplements. Overall, this is good news for health. But it is bad news for the pharmaceutical industry.

As more people become educated about the curative benefits of natural health products, more and more people will turn away from drugs. Inevitably, this will cut into the profits of the pharmaceutical industry.

In the 1930’s, Dr. Weston A Price found 15 groups of people from around the world in perfect health and the common denominator was they were eating 5-10 times the amount of vitamins and minerals as the average American (and we consume approx 30% of that today).

Senator Durbin first introduced the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act (S 1310) in 2011, a bill that threatens the supplement industry by granting FDA more power to regulate supplements as if they were drugs, potentially putting supplement companies out of business. He is bringing a similar bill out this year.

Under the previous bill, supplement regulation would be even more stringent than for pharmaceutical drugs! Unlike drugs, supplements generally cannot be patented, so manufacturers will never see the return on investment that pharmaceutical companies see. The cost of complying with the pre-approval process will likely put many supplement companies out of business, and those who survive may do so only by drastically increasing the price of their products, making them cost prohibitive for many… particularly low-income families who need them the most. Durbin’s bill would also impose a significant burden on federal regulators, diverting these resources away from where they should be focused—i.e., on the drug industry.

As Hippocrates said.”Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.”