FDA Must Withdraw NDI Guidance or Extend Comment Period to July 2012

By James J. Gormley

In our August 23rd post, we alerted you to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) draft guidance on “new” dietary ingredients. We recommended that our 100,000+ members ask the FDA to withdraw the guidance and to not adopt the policies underpinning the interpretation behind this “guidance” in its review and enforcement activities.

In the meantime, Attorney P. Scott Polisky and Susan Brienza — on behalf of Jarrow Formulas, many members of the natural products industry and consumers who value innovation in their dietary supplements — are asking the FDA to at least extend the comment period for this guidance until July 5th, 2012.

Short of an immediate withdrawal of the guidance, Citizens for Health agrees with Attorney P. Scott Polisky and also with Hyman, Phelps and McNamara, which, in its July 26, 2011 request letter, said that “a one-year comment period is further justified given that there is no apparent and certainly no urgent public health need for a shorter period.”

Indeed, the draft guidance itself ignores the stellar record of supplement safety (vis-à-vis drugs and other FDA-regulated products).

As shown in FDA’s response to a 2006 Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) by JFI, in stark contrast to the more than 400,000 annual Adverse Event Reports (AERs) for drugs, there were only 129 non-Ephedra serious AERs for supplements in over 12 years — and six deaths that the FDA, in its 2006 response, found to be “biologically plausible” but not caused by the supplements.

Clearly, as many have noted, dietary supplements are safer than tap water, table salt, aspirin and even food, and it is unlikely that the newly proposed guidelines will make them any safer. Finally, when needed, the FDA has numerous regulatory and enforcement mechanisms (supplement GMPs, import alerts, Physicians Advisories, inspections, mandatory MedWatch reports for serious AERs, etc.) with which to monitor and ensure supplement safety.

Let’s ask the FDA to withdraw the guidance and to assure American consumers that it will not be heading down the road of trying to re-classify hundreds, if not thousands, of safe, historically used ingredients as “new dietary ingredients,” as this could serve as a fatal blow to the dietary supplement industry, especially those companies which feature innovative processes and formulations!

In the meantime, we can buy time by asking them to extend the comment period to July 2012.

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