The Supplement OWL seeks to improve transparency

By Paul Bolar, VP regulatory affairs, Pharmavite

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/outline205
© iStock/outline205
At Pharmavite, we pride ourselves in the work we do and the products we make. Since 1971, we’ve been a leader in the health and wellness industry, and, with our Nature Made brand, have earned the trust of consumers, healthcare practitioners, retailers, regulators, and everyone in between. Like all responsible companies, we’re committed to helping people live healthier lives by focusing on quality and consistency in our manufacturing practices. We recognize the importance of continuous improvement—both as an individual company and as part of the bigger supplement industry.

That is why we were eager to participate in the Supplement OWL (Online Wellness Library), the dietary supplement product registry. A hallmark of industry self-regulation, the Supplement OWL is an important initiative that presents an opportunity to help regulatory agencies have access to more information than they already have about the supplement products in the marketplace.

Paul Bolar_headshot
Paul Bolar, Pharmavite

While participation in the Supplement OWL​ is a long-term commitment—one that involves timely maintenance, judicious tracking, and a healthy allocation of resources—the registry provides an invaluable return on investment for all companies willing to accept the challenge. For participating companies, the Supplement OWL indirectly provides an opportunity to make improvements and advancements that span beyond the product registry. This process, which initially seemed daunting, has been manageable because we view it as part of a larger initiative for Pharmavite and a chance to streamline some of our processes. In brainstorming ways to effectively maintain our entries in the registry, we have found ways to fine-tune preexisting processes and improve the ways in which we allocate time and resources in our daily operations. By accepting the challenges the Supplement OWL presents, we’ve taken significant steps toward improving not only the industry, but ourselves as a business.

As our industry grows and innovates, we must take on challenges that will allow us to actualize our common goals. Presence in the product registry shows a desire to supplement regulation already in place, as well as a company’s awareness of and pride in their own products.

I encourage all supplement companies—big or small, new to the industry or long-time veterans—to upload your finished product labels to the Supplement OWL. If you’re unsure of how the process will work for you, I suggest starting with just a few labels. This will get your name in the system—showing regulators and retailers that you’re serious about self-regulation—and allow your company to familiarize itself with the process.

Supply Chain Transparency

Steve Mister, CRN president and CEO, will discuss the Supplement OWL and more during the upcoming Supply Chain Transparency webinar,​ hosted by NutraIngredients-USA. Mister will join Suzanne Shelton (The Shelton Group), Edward Fletcher (Herbal Ingenuity), and Stefan Gafner, PhD (American Botanical Council) for the Sept. 21 event. Please click HERE​ for more information and to register. 

UL, the global independent safety science company managing the technical aspect of the Supplement OWL, is offering four different options for uploading product labels. These options accommodate businesses of all sizes and technical capabilities, and UL is available to thoroughly explain the logistics and help you get started quickly. Even now they’re making modifications on the process, based on experiences of early adopters such as Pharmavite.

In order for the Supplement OWL to reach its full potential, it must gain critical mass. For FDA to find this a useful tool, we need a fuller representation of the industry.

The Supplement OWL is a registry in its adolescence, and Pharmavite has encountered some bugs and roadblocks along the way. But as more companies begin the label upload process, and as more audiences experience the OWL firsthand, the more feedback UL can receive and the better the tool will become. Anything worth doing requires effort and the Supplement OWL is worth every ounce of effort we can put forward.

About the author: Paul Bolar is vice president, regulatory affairs for Pharmavite LLC, a major manufacturer of dietary supplements and maker of Nature Made supplements, based in Los Angeles. Mr. Bolar currently serves on the Board and the Executive Committee of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the trade association spearheading the Supplement OWL for the industry

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