The War Against Supplements

The War Against Supplements

he missiles are coming with increased frequency from the East Coast, and their targets are the Infidel lands of California, Utah, and wherever else nutritional supplements are manufactured, marketed, and sold, and especially wherever alternatives are pioneered and promoted. Why? Because the media Saracens are waging a holy war, a jihad, against the nutritional heathens who dare to contest the dominance of the Eastern wisdom of drugs, chemotherapy, and radiation—and who threaten the financial realms of the powers that be.

By playing on the vulnerability of ephedra marketers, particularly with respect to a multimillion-dollar false-advertising judgment against the maker of an ephedra-based weight-loss product, the media are widening their response to indict the entire industry. True to the methods of the Inquisition, first among the tactics employed is denunciation.

From The New York Times, that citadel of “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” comes the following:*

  • “[The false-advertising judgment amounts] to a bill of reproach against the science of dietary supplements.”
  • “[The maker of] the supplement implicated in the death of a Baltimore Orioles pitcher . . . had also cajoled some researchers into fudging results in published scientific articles.”
  • “The evidence . . . had left [the judge] no alternative but to conclude that the researchers had set out to create a study that ‘justified the money being spent.’”
  • “The [ephedra] case is part of a swelling tide of litigation that is raising serious questions about the way makers of ephedra and other dietary supplements use—and often misuse—the promise of scientific proof to market their products.”
  • “The truth is, supplement makers are not obliged to do any research. A 1994 law exempts them from having to prove, as drug manufacturers do, that their products are harmless and effective.”
  • “. . . the $18 billion-a-year supplement industry has embraced research because, when carefully aimed, it can be worth money.”
  • “Precisely because the industry is not regulated, though, its research is sometimes less than strictly scientific, experts say.”
  • “The rigor applied in these studies on the average is somewhat notably less than that of a drug study.”
  • “. . . whenever there’s a desired outcome, you’ve got the potential for bias.”

The truth of the matter is that ephedra/ephedrine research is indeed on the whole quite respectable, and the weight of its impact has prevented the FDA from meeting its burden of proof in showing that ephedra dietary supplements are unreasonably unsafe when used as directed. In fact, the General Accounting Office, the U.S. government’s watchdog agency, rejected the FDA’s reports of ephedra grief stories and concluded that the data were without scientific merit.

Yet if all the 21 deaths allegedly associated with ephedra use were directly attributable to normal use according to the label instructions (which the FDA does not contend), when the high number of ephedra users is considered, the death rate due to bacterial food poisoning alone (and there are many other causes of deaths from the consumption of common foods) is about four to five times greater than that attributed to ephedra—meaning that ephedra is about four to five times safer than common food. Yet that hasn’t prevented the media from playing up the excesses of the legal system that feeds on a diet of junk science.

All the stringency imposed on the pharmaceutical industry’s research by the FDA could not avoid the fiasco of the once officially sanctioned diet-pill drugs phenfluramine and dexphenfluramine—not to mention the many other drugs recalled in the last few years that had resulted in a lengthy trail of disability and death. Comparing the harm of the fenfluramines with the alleged harm done by ephedra demonstrates that the reputation of the drugs has fared far worse. The fenfluramines were found to have caused pulmonary hypertension (resulting in scores of deaths), heart-valve defects (up to 30% of all users, in total hundreds of thousands of victims), and serotonergic receptor damage (countless thousands), and the harm attributed to these drugs far exceeds any substantiated deaths from ephedra. So much for the value of “unbiased” and regulated research.

Make no mistake: The New York Times, as well as the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other “protectors” of the common good, are motivated by something other than the truth.

In recent months, The New York Times has justifiably taken a huge amount of condemnation for its willingness to weave its bias into its everyday “objective” reporting. Taking a quote from the Times article cited above, “. . . whenever there’s a desired outcome, you’ve got the potential for bias.” Why would this not apply equally to the Times? What makes us think that there is any area in which they have not been so predisposed as to tilt the evidence to suit their “desired outcome”?

If Émile Zola were alive today, he might very well be pointing his finger of accusation (“J’Accuse”) toward those who would assault the alternative competition to the old medical paradigm, the Eastern media, their regulatory slap-happy supporters, and their governmental cohorts. Then, as Zola announced upon the pardon and release of Alfred Dreyfus, whose cause he had championed, “The truth is on the march, and nothing shall stop it.” May it continue.

*Fessenden F. Studies of dietary supplements come under growing scrutiny. The New York Times, June 23, 2003.

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