Herbals group lobbies federal agencies for word changes

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Ahpa, Alternative medicine

A herbal trade organisation last week challenged two federal
agencies to correct past statements that used misleading
descriptions of dietary supplements and echinacea.

In a communication dated October 4, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) asked the Food and Drug Administration to adopt a 'respectful' tone in its final rule on cGMPs.

Another communication that day asked that the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine correct "erroneous statements" made in relation to the recent study on low-dose echinacea angustifolia root preparations.

AHPA believes that a proposed law on good manufacturing practices published by the FDA in 2003 contained misleading information about supplements that was then repeated in major media reports.

The FDA's publication cast doubts on the quality of all dietary supplements and the degree to which the dietary supplements industry is regulated, said AHPA president Michael McGuffin.

"Federal agencies need to demonstrate the same respect for dietary supplements as they do for any other regulated industry,"​ McGuffin explained.

In the letter to the new acting FDA commissioner, Andrew von Eschenbach, McGuffin sought assurances that when the final rule for current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) is published, FDA will not repeat the errors and misrepresentations that occurred when the proposed rule was first published and about which AHPA complained at the time.

"AHPA has worked for years with FDA to assure dietary supplement integrity,"​ McGuffin noted. "We are seriously concerned that the agency be truthful and not misleading when discussing this industry."

In the separate communication to NCCAM's director, Stephen Straus, AHPA said that a discussion of a recently published study on low-dose Echinacea angustifolia root preparations published on the NCCAM website includes an 'inappropriate and unrelated criticism of herbal products' by generalizing that 'what's on the label may not always be what's in the bottle'.

Numerous news articles about this study cited Straus as defending the low dosage used in the study as the one "most often used by consumers," and as concluding, "We've got to stop attributing any efficacy to echinacea", said AHPA.

The organisation called for this criticism to be removed from the NCCAM website and that all media outlets that carried Straus' statements be requested to issue corrections.

"The government agency that is leading scientific research into the use and benefits of supplements has a fundamental obligation to tell the truth,"​ McGuffin said.

The letters and their support documents are posted on the AHPA website​.

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