Feds Step Up Herbal Supplement Research

We’ve long been following the issue surrounding herbal supplements that sometimes contain dangerous ingredients. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that the federal government is looking into the safety and efficacy of a variety of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">over-the-counter herbal supplements.

The Journal noted that a wide range of botanical supplements, created from the various parts of flowers and plants, have been used for generations to cure and treat all manner of maladies. Now, said the Journal, there’s a growing trend in the use of these botanicals; however, there is virtually no evidence supporting their benefits. According to the Journal, botanical supplement sales came to over $5 billion, a 17-percent increase from the prior five years, citing the American Botanical Council.

The government’s research will look into, said the Journal, “plant oils, garlic, soy, elderberry, licorice, black cohosh, St. John’s wort and the Asian herb dong quai,” with a focus on safety, efficacy, how plant compounds affect health, how botanicals interact with prescription medications, if compounds cause adverse reactions or increased health risks, and how to better inform the public on these issues.

“Sometimes people assume because a product is natural, it is also safer. But these compounds can have both benefits and potential side effects and we need to understand both of those,” said Floyd Chilton III, director of the Center for Botanical Lipids and Inflammatory Disease Prevention at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., quoted the Journal. The center received a $7.5 million federal grant to study botanicals, said the Journal.

Consumers are known to self-diagnose and use botanicals as they see fit, which experts find troubling. “People are using supplements for purposes for which they were not intended,” such as treating health conditions they have self-diagnosed, or using supplements in combination with prescription medications, said Marguerite Klein, director of the Botanical Centers Research program at the National Institutes of Health.

The Office of Dietary Supplements and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, both part of the National Institutes of Health are urging the research and awarded massive grants o five dietary supplement research centers, said the Journal. The Journal noted that these grants expand an existing.

Studies reveal benefits and risk factors and problems with potency. Also, there is no regulation to monitor and track potency, safety, and efficacy. And, said the Journal, an investigation published this spring by the General Accounting Office revealed deceptive marketing practices at some online retailers in which wild curative claims were made and most were found to contain hazardous contaminants, such as lead and bacteria.

Consumer Reports recently published a report pointing to the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) lack of jurisdiction regulating supplements and how it doesn’t take the steps it can, noted Reuters previously. Worse, not one supplement factory in China has ever been inspected by the FDA despite that it set up field offices there in 2008, said Consumer Reports, which is also concerned with the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), an industry friendly regulation that does not enable the FDA to regulate supplements as prescription medications, said Reuters.

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