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Regulations for Vitamins

January 13, 1994

* In response to "Vitamin Makers Can Swallow New Rules," editorial, Jan. 4:

While I support the Food and Drug Administration's restrictions on the claims that can be made for dietary supplements, something needs to be done about the Catch-22 inherent in market-driven medicine. The bee-sting therapy you reported about (Jan. 4) is a classic example. It is scientifically unproven and will likely remain that way because scientific testing is almost always connected with intellectual property rights. If nobody can own it, then the private, for-profit medical system is unlikely to test it.

It's time that we leap over the ideological barrier that keeps treatments in the public domain from undergoing the rigors of scientific testing. It's time to spend public funds to test what is most promising. We could support this effort through sales taxes on those that prove effective. Not only would the public health be improved, but by eliminating worthless treatments, there is potential to reduce what we spend on health care.

It's also worth noting that the same principles that should make us skeptical of health claims by sellers of food supplements suggest that we restructure the way drugs are tested. Relying on regulators to protect the public from the inherent conflict of interest in allowing corporations to test and monitor the safety and effectiveness of what they own is absurd.

The FDA should create the standards and specifications and then put the testing out to bid to third parties without a stake in the outcome. This would also allow the public a window into the books of drug companies so when we grow into the reality of health care rationing, excess profits will be on the table with the really tough choices we need to make.


Thousand Palms

* There is more involved in the FDA's attempts to impose new restrictions on the vitamin industry than honesty in advertising. What is at stake is the freedom to disseminate nutritional and health-related information without interference from an arrogant and backward agency which is generally 20 to 40 years behind in its knowledge of such matters. FDA Commissioner David Kessler and his cronies think that they should be the sole source of health-related information for the United States. The most likely result of increasing their control over the vitamin industry would be higher prices and lower quality.


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