AHPA’s McGuffin: ‘When Americans believe their health is at risk, they turn to natural products’

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ahpa Herbal dietary supplements Herbal products elderberry Echinacea immune support Dietary supplements Supply chain Cbd Hemp

Speaking via video, Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), discussed a range of issues, from new supplement users sticking with the products, voicing support for recent FDA/FTC actions against egregious drug claims, and why FDA must act soon on the hemp-CBD question.

McGuffin told NutraIngredients-USA that AHPA, like everyone, is hearing reports of sales increases across the board, with a particular focus on products associated with immune health but also for vitamins C and D, and multivitamins.

“We’ve heard numbers up to 30% increase. I had one member company tell me that they sold in March a year’s worth of one of their product lines,” ​said McGuffin.

“Apparently when Americans believe their health and the health of their families is at risk, they turn to natural products. They want these products, they’re comfortable with them. We’ve already known for years of very high consumer confidence in the whole supplement class, and of course herbs have been at the forefront of product growth for several years.

“I’ve heard financial analyses that report that this increase in sales reflects both current customers stocking up and many thousands of new customers. One analyst made a point of saying that these customers are going to stay. These customers came in, they’re satisfied with the products, they’re going to stay, and we will, at the end of all of this, have expanded the consumer base for herbal products, natural products, and supplement products.”

FDA/FTC claims

McGuffin also discussed the recent actions by FDA and FTC​ against companies making egregious “cure COVID” claims.

“Our guidance is always follow the law, and don’t make what we call SDCs – stupid drug claims,” ​he said. “It’s really just not wise to make a ‘cures COVID’ or ‘prevents COVID’ claim. We’ve joined other trade associations in expressing strong support for active enforcement by these federal agencies. We think that it’s important that there are controls in place to protect against taking advantage of public health fears.”

McGuffin added that AHPA has looked at the warning letters and found that, of the first 133 warning letters issues by FDA and FTC, just over 25% of those are addressed to companies selling products labeled as dietary supplements.

However, the largest single category has been for intravenous treatment with vitamin C, for example. At least 20% of warning letters have been issued to practitioner clinics, he added.

“Again, we are appreciative that FDA and FTC are paying attention, but we find very few instances where it’s a brand of herbal products advertising their herbal product treats, cures, or prevents COVID. It’s much more likely to be downstream by a practitioner, sometimes by a direct selling marketer, but we see very few claims made by the company that made the product.”

CBD & Hemp

When discussing hemp and CBD, and recent moves by Virginia and Texas to do their own thing, McGuffin said that while the Virginia law is a small step in the right direction, “we shouldn’t have to deal with the regulatory status of hemp and CBD on a state by state basis. We need FDA to act.

“We’ve been really clear and consistent we need FDA to do two things: One is to clarify that hemp and CBD are not the same article. The prior IND restriction that FDA has cited as the basis for its legal interpretation (that we’re not allowed to sell CBD) does not apply to the hemp plant itself, or the leaf, or the flower, or simple extracts of leaf or flower. We think FDA needs to say that point blank.

“And, two, is to establish a clear regulatory pathway for CBD products. Consumers are not going to stop using hemp and CBD products, and until FDA acts these products are – and I hate the word – they’re essentially unregulated. We have pushed back against the misperception that the supplement class generally is unregulated, it’s simply not true. But at this time when FDA is not doing anything to enforce on the area of products that are labeled to contain hemp and especially CBD – except on claims – but they’re not inspecting GMPs, they’re not asking for adverse event reports, and that’s puts consumers in a position where they’re using products with no regulatory oversight.”

“It’s time for FDA to act. It’s really that simple.”

McGuffin also discussed supply chain issues and recognized the recipients of this year’s AHPA’s Awards​, which he describes as “a really important part of what we do”​. Watch the full video for more.

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