NPA’s Fabricant: ‘It’s a global pandemic. We need to speak a global language when it comes to the science around vitamin D and zinc’

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Natural products association, Dietary supplements, Health claims, Vitamin d, Zinc

Every week, new studies are emerging that highlight the important roles that nutrients like vitamin D and zinc play for our immune systems, but the dietary supplements industry cannot talk about much of it. Eventually, this needs to be rectified, said Daniel Fabricant, PhD, President and CEO of the Natural Products Association.

“We’re the country with the First Amendment and we have eight full health claims, and 14 qualified health claims. The EU doesn’t have the same First Amendment and you have over 200 claims,”​ Fabricant told us during a video interview.  

“There’s so much science there, especially at a time like now. There are a lot of really good studies to show that not-optimal vitamin D status does hamper your immune system. [But] we can’t say that. I think that’s where there’s a lot of frustration.

“It’s a global pandemic and we need to speak a global language when it comes to the science around vitamin D, and around zinc.

“I think that’s somewhere, once this has passed, I hope folks really look to redress that.”

Surging sales, but not for everyone

Interest in nutrients and other bioactives that can support the immune system has led to a surge in sales of dietary supplements. However, this surge does not apply to every category, said Dr Fabricant.

“Parts of the industry have been hit harder than others, but the fact that our businesses have stayed open by and large and the different channels and distribution have definitely helped.”

There have been reports that, while immune support or stress management products have been in high demand, sheltering in place has hit categories like sports nutrition, and pre-workouts in particular.

“How people are coping with that is that I think manufacturers and distributors are just switching their availability of products, and you’re seeing more ready-to-drink [products].

“Visits to doctors are down 65%, visits to personal trainers are down significantly, so is there an opportunity to do some sort of telemedicine, if you will, or tele-nutrition and bridge the gap that way.”  

PPP

The NPA recently published results of a survey​ that showed that 95% of natural products businesses that applied for the first round of PPP loans were rejected.

The situation is getting better with the second round of funding, said Fabricant.

“The real scare for us […] is that right now everyone is really compassionate and really concerned that we want you to stay in business, but once everyone’s back and starting to run at their normal pace there’s going to be a lot less of that, and I think that’s where you’re going to see more fallout and we want to be there to help stop that from happening.”

Supply chain

With the early run on products like vitamin C and zinc, there were reports that many ingredients and packaging supplies were being challenged. The situation is still difficult, said Dr Fabricant.

“This is an area where we think government can do more and we want to see them do more. And it’s not just on the supply chain, we want to see them do more for consumers. Now’s not the time to play favorites.

“I think especially domestically, I think everyone’s starting to look at that. Is there a way to bring more capacity back to the US?”

Dr Fabricant also discusses the suspension of FDA inspections for GMPs, the state of play of the NDI draft guidance, and CBD.

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