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Dietary Supplements Feed a Healthy Industry

April 15, 2002

"A Dose of Herbal Reform" (editorial, April 10) is way off the mark. Yes, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sponsored the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act, but it was the American people who pushed it through--via one of the largest grass-roots responses ever seen on Capitol Hill. Today, given our ailing health care system, the American people want free access to their dietary supplements more than ever. They want, whenever possible, natural alternatives to prescription medications.

Yes, there are some unscrupulous small-time outfits selling herbs and steroids, but the dietary supplement industry is doing all it can to follow good manufacturing practices. When your editorial describes the makers of supplements as "spoiled" and "powerful," it is frankly ridiculous. The pharmaceutical giants, engaged in the most profitable business in the nation, are the ones with awesome power. They don't want the competition and are trying to discredit, control and usurp the dietary supplement industry. In the meantime, they push dangerous drugs through the Food and Drug Administration, raise prices to obscene levels, taint medical ethics by funding doctors and researchers and, obviously, influence the media.

Judith Plowden

Venice

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Examples of hypocrisy from politicians are hardly rare, but the example is clear in Hatch's unbending support for the dietary supplement industry. Even though death and serious health problems are documented from the use of certain dietary supplements, his insistence is that the industry--which is mainly based in his own state--remain free of any regulation and its products be treated as food products. Yet Hatch is a staunch supporter of the federal war on marijuana, a war where even a hint of suggesting regulation is ridiculed as being preposterous. Any discussion on the subject of a state's right to regulate the medical use of marijuana is summarily dismissed, even though marijuana has never caused a single death; quite to the contrary, it is a healing herb.

Clearly, Sen. Hatch is beholden to his constituents in the dietary supplement industry. Clear, also, is his service to the pharmaceutical industry--a major donor to powerful people on both sides of the aisle--in making sure sick people are prevented from growing their own medicine or otherwise acquiring it from a noncorporate source.

Rick L. Root

Westminster

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