Fabricant leaves FDA, replaces Shaw as head of NPA

By Hank Schultz in Washington, DC

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dietary supplement Daniel fabricant Npa

Fabricant leaves FDA, replaces Shaw as head of NPA
The Natural Products Association (NPA) announced this morning that Daniel Fabricant, PhD, will succeed John Shaw as chief executive officer of the organization effective immediately.  Shaw had tendered his resignation several days ago, the organization revealed.

“My top priority is ensuring NPA remains the premiere organization for advocacy and regulatory engagement. NPA is made up of leaders, and we are going to dedicate ourselves to strengthening that leadership position through hard work and membership growth,​” Fabricant said.

Fabricant most recently was the director of the Division of Dietary Supplement Programs at the Food and Drug Administration. Prior to his stint at FDA, which began in 2011, Fabricant was president of global government and scientific affairs at NPA and was its acting CEO for several months in 2009.

Point man on difficult issues

While at FDA Fabricant was the agency’s point man on both the New Dietary Ingredients (NDI) draft guidance and the enforcement of Good Manufacturing Practices compliance.  He has made numerous appearances at trade shows and industry forums during his tenure at the agency.

In 2011, FDA issued its draft guidance on NDIs, which has been the subject of heated debate between industry and the agency. The agency eventually agreed to convene a series of high level meetings with industry stakeholders (a process in which Fabricant was intimately involved) to iron out differences on the language of the document. Those meetings finished months ago, with no word yet as to when FDA might issue a revised draft.

Whereas the NDI issue was a sticking point during Fabricant’s tenure at FDA, Fabricant himself always pointed to what he called the industry’s poor record on GMP compliance as the far more important issue. With his broad experience on both sides of the aisle, so to speak, Fabricant is uniquely positioned to help NPA members and wider industry better understand what’s at stake and where individual responsibilities lie.

“NPA is committed to ensuring that the public knows what is truly natural, that our members understand the complex rules and regulations governing our industry, and that policymakers get the facts. As the foremost industry expert on natural products and dietary supplement issues, Dr. Fabricant will help us achieve those goals,”​ said NPA president Roxanne Green.

Good news for organization and industry

Suzanne Shelton, a PR representative with long experience with the organization, saw the move as a good thing for members and nonmembers alike.

“I think this development will prove to be a very good thing for the industry and the NPA, and I think the timing is perfect,”​ Shelton told NutraIngredients-USA.

“Dan was part of the leadership team when NPA was at its strongest and most effective, certainly in the 25 years I've been associated with it. Having worked closely with Dan as an executive committee member of the Natural Products Foundation board, I've seen him demonstrate his belief that a trade organization must protect its members,”​ she said.

“I see Dan's experience and temperament as being good for the industry, particularly now. Given NPA's track record of working to get the industry to step up regulatory compliance, there is certainly precedent for more robust activities in that vein. And who better than Dan to kick the industry's collective butt as an ally, while providing a framework for improvement informed by his FDA experience?”​ Shelton added.

Tumultous period

NPA bills itself as the largest trade organization representing the entire breadth of the natural products industry, from suppliers and manufacturers through retailers. NPA is also the oldest organization representing the industry, with more than 2,000 members in all 50 states and internationally, accounting for over 10,000 retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids. 

While the association has been consistently influential, it has had a history of greater management volatility than other trade organizations that represent various sectors in the business. Since Fabricant left NPA, the organization went through a stint with John Gay at the helm and then Shaw’s slightly longer tenure. Cracks in the relationship between Shaw and members appeared in the fall of 2013, when the organization voted down a proposal to expand membership to big retailers and online outlets​. Both men brought lobbying experience to the role, but had little history with the natural products business. That’s one of Fabricant’s strong suits, Shelton said.

“There is a lack of institutional memory among NPA staff, so Dan brings that as well,”​ she said.

What next for FDA?

A spokesperson for the FDA told us that that Agency has not yet selected an acting or permanent replacement.

“Over the last three years, Dr. Fabricant has worked hard to help ensure the safety of dietary supplement products. In the three years since Dr. Fabricant joined the FDA, the agency has taken several court enforcement actions and issued numerous Warning Letters to companies marketing products as dietary supplements. The infractions include adulteration, mislabeling and violations of Good Manufacturing Practice requirements," ​added the spokesperson. 

“We thank Dr. Fabricant for his service to the FDA and his efforts to ensure that dietary supplements are in compliance with all FDA regulations, properly labeled, and safe for use. We wish him the best in his new role.”

Loren Israelsen, president, the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), said that the organization was awaiting, "with great anticipation news concerning the naming of Dr. Fabricant’s successor at FDA, the development of ongoing policy implementation, and industry’s evolving relationship with the agency.” 

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