Industry must engage AGs early to reduce litigation risk, experts advise
“Comments that we will defeat such and such AG for bringing a case against industry,” like those cried when the New York AG alleged some supplements were not what they claimed, are not helpful because the chances of an AG losing in court or on the public stage are slim, said former West Virginia AG Charlie Brown.
Rather, he explained at the Organic & Natural Health Association’s inaugural conference in late January, “we need to engage constructively with AGs” to communicate effectively to them – and the watching public – that the dietary supplement industry is regulated, benefits the public health and is just as interested as AGs in rooting out bad actors that damage its reputation and put consumers at risk.
“You need to explain to your AGs,” the same way industry does Congressional representatives, “that if there is something unhealthy happening, they should stop it. But, the general idea of this industry is to help people … and it is a legal business,” he said.
Industry should drum into AGs and their staff that supplements are not an unregulated drug, but rather “the most over-regulated food,” he said.
Companies should show AGs from their states firsthand how they implement good manufacturing practices at their facilities by inviting them to visit, former US Senator and AG from Arkansas Mark Pryon added later in the day at the conference.
They also should demonstrate how they benefit the local economy and how many of the AG’s constituents want, use and benefit from supplements, said Brown, who is the current president of the World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry.
As elected officials, many AGs will weigh their actions against reactions from those who vote for them, so demonstrating consumer support as well as industry influence could dissuade unnecessary negative cases, he added.
Get involved during elections
The dietary supplement industry also should consider becoming involved before negative cases are filed – which might mean playing a part during elections, Brown said.
He noted that North Carolina and Pennsylvania have AG elections this year, along with about eight other states. Even more are up in 2018.
When choosing where to focus industry efforts, he recommends firms zero in on elections without an incumbent.
He also suggested reaching out to Republican candidates who likely will be more receptive than Democrats to messages of providing consumers with more choices and the benefits industry offers the local economy.
“We should talk boldly about our industry and not at all shrink away from being in front of federal policy makers and state officials,” he said. “Show them we are a new positive issue … that has political force as part of the culture, part of the economy and part of the polity.”