DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: FTC Issues Marketing Guidelines
In an effort to curtail "incredible claims" made by manufacturers of dietary supplements, the Federal Trade Commission today is scheduled to announce first-ever advertising guidelines, the New York Times reports. The Times reports that the guidelines are the "commission's second action within a week on claims by the industry" -- last week the FTC sent e-mail messages to 1,200 Internet sites warning companies to cease making outrageous claims. Posted on the FTC's Web site, the guidelines "do not amount to any change in policy," but provide explanations as to "how those requirements apply to the supplement industry," FTC lawyer Michelle Rusk said (Grady, 11/18). The guidelines assert that over-the-counter products "can't exaggerate the results of research studies, nor can they rely on shoddy experiments simply because they bear the imprimatur of science." Rusk said the guidelines hold supplement makers to "the same standard that applies to any advertiser making a health-related claim, whether it's for food, a drug or a device" (Brown, Washington Post, 11/18).
Taking Their Medicine
USA Today reports that advertising for dietary supplements is on the rise, up 30% from 1997. Since a 1994 law "stripped the Food and Drug Administration of some control over supplements, the FTC has increased its scrutiny, going after supplement makers 34 times for misleading ads." FTC Consumer Protection Chief Jodie Bernstein said, "If we can get the industry into compliance, then we can focus on going after the bad actors" (O'Donnell, 11/18). The FTC's move was well-received within the industry. Annette Dickinson of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said, "It's going to continue to be a matter of judgment on the part of companies. These guidelines provide the kind of information that will help them make those judgements" (Srinivasan, AP/Nando Times, 11/17). Alan Raul, a lawyer for the National Nutritional Foods Association, said, "The FTC has really reached out to the dietary supplement industry to provide assistance and guidance in the sort of advertising claims on dietary supplements that are appropriate. It looks like a thorough, helpful piece of guidance that will be useful to the public and to the industry" (Wall Street Journal, 11/18). Going even further, Larry Augsburger, president of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, yesterday called for government regulation of supplements similar to that for normal drugs. He said unlike drugmakers, supplement makers "have no one looking over their shoulders." While the FDA does have the power to regulate the industry, he said, it would probably "require congressional action" to impose new standards (Abate, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/18).