Sunday, February 21, 2010

Making Vitamins Too Costly for Your Health

By Alan Caruba

At age 72 I have been taking a full range of vitamin and mineral supplements for years. Even I find it amusing to open more than a dozen bottles every morning to extract vitamins A, B, C, D and E, along with zinc, potassium, selenium, and fish oil. On the advice of my physician long ago, I also take a low dose aspirin every day. I also take some herbal supplements.

In early January I fell and broke my collar bone. A month later it was completely healed. I don’t get the common cold, although I do experience seasonal allergies that are controlled with anti-histamine. In sum, I am as healthy as a person of my age can hope to be.

So why have Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) joined to introduce an amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act that would deny freedom of easy access to these vitamins and minerals that are now commonly available in supermarkets, pharmacies and other outlets at affordable prices?

Why would they conspire to make dietary supplements such as purified fish oil seven times more expensive than it is today?

It is irrational, not to say obscene, at a time when a debate is raging over the costs of Medicare and the various illnesses that afflict Americans to introduce a law that would raise the cost of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements that are among the best forms of preventative medicine available to the general public.

Who, ultimately, will benefit from such a law? The answer is the pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Steven Joyal, M.D., vice president of science and medical affairs of the Life Extension Foundation, says “This bill aims to further pharmaceutical profits by creating wide-ranging, unprecedented FDA power to reclassify natural nutritional products as drugs.”

I am a free market capitalist, but I also know that many companies engage in “rent seeking”, a term to describe how they use the ability of Congress to pass laws and regulations that improperly and unfairly increase their profits.

The bill, titled that “Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010” is a classic example of how an ever-expanding federal government continues to get between Americans and the freedoms they have come to take for granted. High on the list is the freedom to maintain one’s health; in this case with affordable and easily accessible vitamins and minerals.

The “Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010” has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with increasing the profits of pharmaceutical companies. It does not enhance safety because vitamins and mineral supplements are already manufactured under some of the most stringent restrictions placed on any products sold anywhere in the world.

My friend, Frank Murray, is the author of nearly 50 books on health and nutrition. He is the former editor of Better Nutrition, GreatLife, and Let’s Live magazines. His books have documented how various vitamins and minerals, as well as herbal supplements have preventative and curative affects on a wide range of ailments and afflictions.

His latest book, “Sunshine and Vitamin D” describes the research concerning this vitamin’s ability to reduce or ameliorate cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and a host of other ailments. And that is just one common vitamin!

It is astonishing how vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements can aid the body to resist the many pathogens in our environment, to digest the food we eat, and to enhance many of our mental and physical abilities.

This latest bill in Congress should be defeated. Its two sponsors should be held up to scrutiny to determine how great a role the donations of pharmaceutical companies to their election campaigns played in the drafting and introduction of this bill.

There is not enough scorn that can be heaped upon the bill’s sponsors and any member of Congress that votes for it.

I don’t want and I don’t need a doctor’s prescription to purchase the vitamins and minerals I take daily. Neither do you!

(c)Alan Caruba, 2010


Unknown said...

I haven't had a cold, sore throat or any kind of illness in over 15 years. I too take many supplements and vitamins everyday. My breakfast table is riddled with all of the bottles. I also do not eat any biblically unclean meats or any man made, processed garbage that the FDA says is ok to consume.

I just can't fathom why they would want to make it dificult to get vitamins and supplements. Are they nuts? Of course they are. This is no different than anything else they do.

Frances said...

I've been an herbalist for over 25 years. I've seen vitamines, minerals and herbs work miracles about which M.D.s can only shake their heads in wonder. I think that this is more than just pharmaceutical profits. I think that this is another effort to take control of people's lives. It's a multipronged attack on freedom closely connected with Universal Non-Health Care.

Carolyn said...

Doesn't surprise me in the least that they would want to do this. Goes along with the government takeover of everything else in our lives. I hope it gets shot down and quick! God Bless you Mr. Caruba!

Guy said...

As usual, it's an initiative that began with good intentions, but our government can screw anything up. I can understand the concept, wanting to restrict the proverbial "snake oil salesmen" from marketing useless or especially harmful pills to people, but the agency that gets to decide what's useful, and what's harmful becomes very powerful. With that power comes the inevitable corruption, and with the corruption comes increased cost. They started with what they deemed were "drugs", but now, as usual, they want to stretch the definition of what a drug is. If the FDA is allowed to press on with their plans, it won't be long before they're regulating everything we put in our mouths. It's the proverbial "slippery slope", and just our fight against the size of government in general, it's one we need to win.

TexasFred said...

I pretty much cut RED meat out a while back, and felt a lot better, but chicken and fish are still in my diet...

I take a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and herbs, my weight is coming down, my diabetes is much easier to control and I feel a lot better too, and, no colds or flu in a long time!

Rich Kozlovich said...


I have always been a believer in nutritional supplementation. I have not always practiced it however. I just can't seem to keep in the habit of taking all those pills as part of my daily routine. I take a multi-vitamin supplement....when I think of it.

At 63 my arthritis has gotten so bad that I found myself taking ibuprophen every day to get by without too much pain. However, the more I take it the less it seems to work, so I would have to go off a few days and then take it a couple of days and then repeat this process. At one point I would only take it the night before when I knew that I would be using the ladder and climbing on to roofs, or doing bed bug or roach cleanouts. I just happened to start taking my multivitamin with the ibuprophen (acetaminophen doesn’t seem to work for me). It seems to work better over a longer period of time and I think the reason for that is because it helps absorption and helps to maintain absorption for a longer period of time.

I have related this because I find it amusing that I can take ibuprophen without a prescription, but I might have to have a prescription to take vitamins with it. We have lost our minds.

Rich K.

Alan Caruba said...

My Mom, a cookbook author and teacher of gourmet cuisine, turned me onto vitamins after she undertook her own research. Suffice it to say, she lived to age 98.

I think we need to take a minimal dose of A thru D, but in the winter I take more D on the advice of the author of many books on vitamins because there is less sun out and less exposure to it. It does seem to lift one's mood.

It stands to reason that, in an age of so much pre-prepared and packaged foods, we all need to ensure we get a minimum daily dose of vitamins and minerals for our bodies.

Guy said...

Rich, don't assume that over-the-counter products like Ibuprofen will be left out of this. It was only a very short time ago that many of today's OTC meds like Claritin and Pepcid were being sold as prescription-only drugs. With a stroke of the pen, they could quickly be re-classified...