The state AGs have been led on the issue by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who first demanded that four major retailers remove certain herbal products that he asserted were fraudulent from their shelves in New York State in early February. A number of AGs have signed on to supplement industry issues led by Schneiderman since then. And a recent article in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis that equated the mindset of the dietary supplement industry to that of Big Tobacco set forth a state-by-state strategy toward achieving more stringent regulation of dietary supplements.
Former state AG on the case
In response to this threat through the arena of the states, AHPA and UNPA have cooperated in hiring the services of Doug Gansler, a partner in the law firm Buckley Sandler LLP. Gansler is the former Attorney General of the state of Maryland.
“I think we can reach all of the AGs with this effort,” Michael McGuffin, president of AHPA, told NutraIngredients-USA. “They have well established forums for meetings. Mr Schneiderman has been engaging the AGs in those forums for much of the past year and we haven’t been there.”
Other industry critics have been engaging the state AGs via the National Association of States Attorneys general. Dr Pieter Cohen of the Harvard Medical School appeared on a panel at the association’s annual meeting in November of last year, as did Maia Kats, director of litigation for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (Rend Al-Mondhiry of the Council for Responsible Nutrition also participated in the panel.)
McGuffin said the move to retain Gansler for these kinds of communications is a way to get someone who speaks the correct language. Having the right message isn’t enough, McGuffin said, it’s being able to present it in a way that will get the most attention from the AGs and their staffs, and to have it delivered by someone they trust.
“We have been talking to Doug Gansler for more than a year,” McGuffin said. “He really filled us in on the way communications cycle among the various states. Very early on he told us we have to be engaged. If there is no one there to counter the uninformed message that message grows.”
“Both of us (including UNPA president Loren Israelsen) as the leaders of our groups and our members in common, we have the same message and that is that the regulatory framework that exists now is quite good, quite thorough, quite well-established, and that FDA has all the authority it needs,” he said.
According to a joint statement, the goals of the effort are:
- Build positive, collaborative relationships with state AGs, their office and staffs
- Provide resources for state AGs in support of responsible industry and to create industry advocates
- Shift the focus of state AG regulatory efforts toward unsafe and adulterated products that are falsely labeled as supplements
- Educate state AGs about responsible industry and the economic significance of dietary supplement companies on state economies
- Rebut inaccurate media accusations
- Provide timely information, education and resources regarding state AG activity to AHPA and UNPA member companies.
"UNPA sees this joint state AG project as a logical extension of the regulatory work both organizations already do at the federal level," Israelsen said. "It is our expectation that, with Mr. Gansler's assistance, we will be able to create positive, collaborative working relationships with state attorneys general in support of the responsible dietary supplement industry.”
According to the statement, the following companies have underwritten the campaign: Emerson Ecologics, Essential Formulas, Herb Pharm, Indena, NOW Foods, Pharmavite, PLT Health Solutions and Thorne Research.