I'm on the mailing list for the liberal-leaning organization, The Pen, which also uses the name "The Peace Team" on a web page devoted to causes like impeaching George Bush. I usually find I agree with their stance, so I was quite surprised to see their attack on legislation that would require proof of safety before manufacturers could add a new ingredient to a dietary supplement.
The Pen's email starts with this alarmist and outrageous subject line: Big Pharma Is Trying To Kill Us By Trying To Outlaw Natural Food Supplements.
The message then opens with this far-fetched comparison: "It wasn't enough for Congress to kill off the public option. Now they want to kill us directly by trying to outlaw nutritious food supplements."
Wow. First blame Big Pharma, and then link the failure to legislate a public health insurance option with outlawing DANGEROUS food supplements.
Because that's what the bill would do: first, by requiring supplement manufacturers to have evidence that a new dietary ingredient "will reasonably be expected to be safe," and second, by giving the FDA power to recall supplements that "would cause serious, adverse health consequences or death."
The people behind The Pen seem to have forgotten about ephedra. That's the supplement that was a real favorite of athletes. In 2004, the RAND Corporation's Southern California Evidence-Based Practice Center reviewed 16,000 reports of adverse reactions to ephedra. It blamed the supplement for 2 deaths, 4 heart attacks, 9 strokes, 1 seizure and 5 cases of adverse psychiatric episodes.
Don't trust RAND? How about the Public Citizen Health Research Group, which is hated by Big Pharma, Big Insurance and corporate America in general. Director Sidney Wolfe, M.D. says 155 people died from using ephedra, and he castigated the FDA for not acting sooner to ban sales of the substance.
Remember, just because something is "natural" doesn't mean it's safe. The active ingredient in ephedra is ephedrine, which when chemically synthesized is regulated as a drug--and therefore can't be sold unless it is safe and effective for the specified use.
I emailed The Pen to find out if they had any facts to back up their accusations about this legislation. Let's see if they respond.
Right now, everyone should be supporting this proposal, even if one of the two main sponsors is Senator John McCain. Nobody's wrong all the time! And liberals aren't necessarily right--not if they ignore the facts!