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Hatch NDI guidance meeting: File comments for now, then explore legal avenues …

1 commentBy Elaine Watson , 18-Aug-2011
Last updated on 18-Aug-2011 at 18:21 GMT

Hatch: Increasingly concerned
Hatch: Increasingly concerned

A range of options – “judicial, administrative and Congressional” – is being explored by the dietary supplements industry should the FDA prove unwilling to make substantial changes to its controversial draft guidance on new dietary ingredients (NDIs).

However, stakeholders must first engage with the FDA via the formal comment process before pursuing these options, agreed delegates at a meeting held at Utah Valley University yesterday by Senator Orrin Hatch.

Loren Israelsen - executive director of the Salt Lake City-based United Natural Products Alliance - was one of a group of representatives from the trade attending yesterday’s meeting, which was called by Hatch to discuss the industry's response to the NDI draft guidance.

He said: “First we file comments, after that it’s less clear what the path to resolution looks like. I said publicly that I hope it doesn’t come to some form of legal action, but if it did, that I hoped Senator Hatch would lead that charge.

Because it is a draft guidance [which is not legally binding] the question of when is it right to take judicial or administrative action is a difficult one. Can we sue the FSA or seek some other form of administrative redress? But there is a growing view that the guidance should have been issued as rulemaking and there will be challenges on this issue sooner rather than later.”

Plan A… and then plan B

However, there is also a “generally held view that it’s critical that we deal with the substantive issues and first engage with the FDA though the existing comment process, even if at some point we explore other options,” stressed Israelsen.

“So we will file specific, constructive and concrete comments. Where we go from there, I’m not prepared to speculate, but there are three possible avenues.

“One is administrative, the other judicial and the third Congressional. If it becomes clear that the guidance does not reflect Congressional intent and members of Congress feel strongly enough that the guidance would do significant economic damage to our industry and there is no alternative form of resolution, the option could be Congressional oversight.

“That is, bringing in senior FDA officials and asking them to explain and then reconsider the policy”

He added: “There are calls to withdraw the guidance altogether because it violates the Administrative Procedure Act and because it is so deeply flawed. But if the FDA just pulls it back and re-issues it as a proposed regulation, we’ve not resolved our problem.”

Hatch: Increasingly concerned

Hatch, who was one of the authors of the 1994 Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA) that the guidance is designed to clarify, had become increasingly concerned that the guidance did not reflect his understanding of the intent of DSHEA, said Israelsen.

“He made it clear that if it was implemented as it stands it would have a dramatic adverse economic effect on the industry.”

The key question, said Israelsen, was the FDA’s insistence that NDI notifications should relate to every product containing an NDI rather than to the new ingredient itself.

“The critical issue is the dietary supplement vs dietary ingredient issue. Somewhere in the last few years the FDA appears to have changed its mind [and switched from focusing on ingredients to supplements].

If the FDA continued to insist that the NDI notification process should be supplement-driven it was difficult to see how being flexible on other aspects of the guidance would be of much use, he said.

Legal limbo

While the guidance was not legally binding, FDA’s apparent expansion of the definition of what constitutes an NDI had immediately rendered a large number of supplements already on the market technically unlawful, putting supplement makers in a very difficult position, he added.

“Whether it is already exerting a coercive effect on industry [by making firms believe they must remove products from the market to avoid the risk of being charged with adulteration] I’m not sure, but in a few months’ time, the fear of imminent action from the FDA will only rise. Businesses don’t like uncertainty. We need resolution on this.”

Guidance oversteps DSHEA

Other attendees at the meeting included Council for Responsible Nutrition chief executive Steve Mister, American Herbal Products Association president Michael McGuffin, Natural Products Association chief executive John Gay and Consumer Healthcare Products Association chief executive Scott Melville.

Gay said the meeting was productive, adding: “We wanted to make sure the Utah supplement industry was fully aware of the challenge of the draft NDI guidance, and would engage on the issue; and, from the comments we heard from attendees, it sounds like they will.

"I think it was clear that he [Sen Hatch] views the draft guidance as overstepping DSHEA, and he should know.”

Mister said: “Senator Hatch did stress that DSHEA intended to preserve consumer access to a wide variety of products and the guidance was potentially antithetical to that, but at this stage we are still very hopeful that the FDA will take our concerns seriously.”

McGuffin added: “The attendees can now understand the draft NDI guidance and the need to respond to FDA. AHPA will maintain its close working relationship with Senator Hatch, who continues to exhibit his leadership in ensuring consumer access to safe dietary supplements."

1 comment (Comments are now closed)

Isn't It About Time?

I have been in the supplement and organic food industry for twenty one years and have also been a consumer of a mainly organic diet as well as several supplements, which in my definite, heart felt opinion, have allowed me to have superb health at age 50! I would never have been able to do the things I do now, which include: mountain bike race, P90X (a very difficult workout program), etc., if I had not started eating healthfully and taking appropriate supplements for my health. I determined what is appropriate for me by being fortunate enough to have access to many stellar alternative health practioners over the past twenty plus years. I had to learn things the hard way, by getting severely ill, and learning how to make myself healthy again. What made me turn in this direction vs. the standard american medical route, was how poorly I was treated by many standard medical professionals. They did not care if I was sick, as they could not apply their used up and aging protocol to heal me, that of drugging and surgery. It turned out to be a godsend for me as I have my health back! We all should have free and easy access to diet and health information and new developments in this field. Truth be told, we do not and it is eerily beginning to look like the early stages of Hitler occupied Germany! We said we would never go back there again, but, we have and tenfold. For god's sake when will this end? What have we learned as a society? It does not seem like we have learned anything. It is time for this illegal and barbaric methodology imposed by the F.D.A. to end!

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Posted by Kimberle Ganzer-Wiley
24 August 2011 | 01h36

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