AMA Names Head of Supplement Group as Chief Executive
The American Medical Association yesterday named Dr. Michael Maves, the current president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, as its new executive vice president and chief executive officer, the Washington Post reports. Maves will assume his new role, which will put him in charge of the organization's day-to-day management, on Jan. 15, 2002. The announcement that the head of a "powerful" over-the-counter drug and dietary supplement trade group would head the AMA "raised eyebrows among consumer advocates" (Gugliotta, Washington Post, 11/20). The critics say that his work for the dietary supplement industry "will undermine the AMA's reputation." Jerome Kassirer, a Tufts and Yale University professor and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, said, "[It is] a very odd choice to take someone who has represented industry" (AP/Wall Street Journal, 11/20). Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, said, "[This is] unbelievable. We're going back to the 19th century, where snake oil and medicine [were] synonymous." Some advocates say that Maves' position at CHPA has "put him in direct conflict with long-held AMA positions." Those conflicts include the following:
- Two CHPA members, Herbalife and Chattem Inc., manufacture products that contain the herbal stimulant ephedra, which has been cited by the FDA in "several hundred" cases of serious illness, including heart seizure, stroke and death. The AMA "as recently as last April" recommended that the FDA remove ephedra from the market due to safety concerns.
- The AMA has called for mandatory reporting of serious illnesses associated with supplements by the companies that produce them. The CHPA opposes such rules. Currently, there is no law requiring reporting by supplement makers.
- The AMA has "consistently advocated pre-screening" dietary supplements for safety and efficacy before they can be sold, another position opposed by the CHPA. Supplement manufacturers "typically sell new products without FDA approval."
Responding to critics, Maves called the CHPA "by far the most conservative" of the five supplement industry trade organizations, adding that his group is "committed" to a "science-based approach" to selling and marketing dietary supplements. He said, "I don't think that the policies (of the AMA and CHPA) are substantively different" (Washington Post, 11/20).
Maves, an ear, nose and throat physician and former head of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, said that he will not "focus on industry interests in his new job." He added that among his "top priorities" will be "rebuilding membership and the AMA's reputation as 'the voice of American medicine'" (AP/Wall Street Journal, 11/20). AMA membership has declined since the middle of the 20th century, when 90% of physicians belonged to the group. Since then, the organization has "gradually lost clout," and currently, less than 40% of the country's 800,000 physicians are members. Wolfe said, "If there are still physicians who still belong to AMA, they should leave now. ... Every time they do something like this, they lose more members" (Washington Post, 11/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.