Industry must embrace politics, associations urge

By Clarisse Douaud in Las Vegas

- Last updated on GMT

The dietary supplement industry needs to band together,
self-regulate and contribute to political action committees in
order to secure consumer respect and legislative support, agreed
speakers at Friday's State of the Industry panel at Supply Side

Heads of trade associations and industry attorneys addressed show attendees in Las Vegas on issues such as how manufacturers can stay out of trouble with the Federal Trade Commission and how the industry as a whole could improve its lobbying power.

As the regulatory changes industry trade associations have fought for come nearer to fruition - from adverse events reporting to good manufacturing practices - the more pressing message from the speakers involved how manufacturers can act within this evolving climate to ensure legislative advances are not undone.

"Congress loves to hear disagreement in the industry because it makes their job easier,"​ said Natural Products Association executive officer and CEO David Seckman as to how a unified industry has a louder voice to lobby government.

With annual contributions of approximately $1.8m, the dietary supplement industry ranks 74th out of the various lobbying industries in terms of the amount of money it gives to political action committees. Seckman said this is not nearly enough when considering the supplement industry is worth $23bn.

"So, if it's not money, what makes this industry so influential?"​ asked Seckman. "It's our grassroots."

This 'grassroots' quality of the industry, according to Seckman, refers to how the consumption of dietary supplements affects the lives of the very voters senators are trying to reach. And, he added, this approach has not been lost on industry members.

"We're very good as an industry at knowing how to lobby,"​ Seckman told "But where we lack is in political contribution to political action committees."

Political action committees, or PACs, are the legal means by which organizations and companies can make donations to candidates running for federal office.

The president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, Steve Mister, encouraged industry members to join trade associations and Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association, urged trade association members in turn to make full use of these representative bodies to get their needs addressed.

Issues of product quality and the science necessary to substantiate it were also addressed - with speakers agreeing the scope of what federal institutions, such as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, consider to be valid studies is widening.

"NCCAM is becoming much friendlier to a variety of research,"​ said Mister - who listed other methods for clinical trials, such as cohort and observational studies.

This was corroborated by another speaker, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection staff attorney Peter Miller.

"Randomized trials are the 'gold standard',"​ said Miller. "But are not required by the FTC."

Miller discussed the "red flag"​ claims FTC watches out for in supplement advertising that prompts an agency to further investigate a product and request files from the company. These claims include rapid weight loss, or weight loss without a healthy diet and exercise, as well as wide sweeping claims that cover a gamut of diseases and conditions.

"An add may be deceptive by omission,"​ added Miller, who also advised supplement companies to keep only studies specifically relevant to their products on file so as to be able to draw a link directly back to the benefits of a supplement if asked by FTC.

Related topics: Regulation

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