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When is a Hit Piece on Supplements by the Drug Industry a Hit Piece?

By Scott C. Tips, Attorney and President of the National Health Federation

The answer is: Whenever Josh Bloom writes it.  Josh Bloom of the so-called and heavily drug-industry-funded “American Council on Science and Health” just wrote and published a hit piece on supplements in The American Spectator ( entitled “When Is a Drug a Drug?  And, amazingly enough, this drug-happy organization’s spokesman argues the same old, tired myth that supplements are dangerous, supplements are unregulated, and that the FDA is our poor, hands-tied-behind-its-back friend desperately trying to protect the consumer against these dangerous products.


    I am so glad that the drug industry – whose properly approved drugs kill over 100,000 Americans year in and year out (Government statistics, not mine) – is so concerned about protecting my health from supplements that maybe have killed ten people in over 25 years!  In fact, Americans are more likely to die from a bee sting, lightning strike, or falling off a horse than they are from taking a supplement.  That is how incredibly safe supplements in America are.  To regulate them any more than they already are is to raise their costs and to price these healthy, preventative products out of the hands of ordinary citizens.

ACSH is a Front Organization for the Drug Industry

          So where does this noble man, Josh Bloom, come from, to offer up to us his wisdom about the “dangers” of supplements?  Well, Wikipedia notes that as of 1996, 75% of the American Council on Science and Health’s funding came from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries!  Curiously enough, the organization no longer publishes their funding sources and they claim that less than 50% of their funding comes from those sources now, but even if that is true, ACSH’s funding from the drug industry is substantial and leads anyone with a room-temperature I.Q. or better to question their motives in attacking supplements, which are, after all, growing competition for the pharmaceutical industry, which sees its carefully constructed monopoly over health under attack.

          After all, the drug industry spends $6 million per day lobbying Congress and agencies just like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to maintain the drug-industry monopoly over health and healthcare.  Josh Bloom may attempt to casually insult the supplement industry with his smear that it is a “mega-billion-dollar industry,” but the supplement industry is a puny lightweight compared to Big Pharma with easily a half-a-trillion in revenues every year (see revenue chart at

Drugs are Dangerous

          Dr. Andrew Saul, a doctor actually concerned with optimal health, has pointed out that, even when properly prescribed and taken as directed, legal drugs kill some 106,000 Americans each and every year. At over 2,000 deaths each week (and some doctors estimate the toll to be much higher), that is quite a death rate. (See L.L. Leape, “Error in Medicine,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 1994, 272:23 at 1851; L.L. Leape, “Institute of Medicine Medical Error Figures are not Exaggerated,” JAMA, 2000 Jul, 5;284(1):95–97.)

          The number of serious adverse drug events reported to the FDA between 1998 and 2005 more than doubled to 467,809, according to a report in the Sept. 10th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Thomas J. Moore and his colleagues (at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania) analyzed serious adverse drug events reported to the FDA and found in addition to the number of reported AERS, the number of fatal adverse drug events increased from 5,519 to 15,107 in the same time frame, a 2.7-fold increase. “The overall relative increase was four times faster than the growth in total U.S. outpatient prescriptions, which grew in the same period from 2.7 billion to 3.8 billion.”  Drugs are indeed serious concerns; and, clearly, supplements and drugs are not even in the same class.  Nor should they be treated in the same way either.

Supplements are Safe

          As I have been writing and saying for years, dietary supplements are exceptionally safe. Statistically, a person is more likely to die from a bee sting or a lightning strike than he or she is from taking dietary supplements.

          Dr. Andrew Saul confirmed this viewpoint when he wrote, “The 2003 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers Toxic Exposures Surveillance System states that there have been only two deaths allegedly caused by vitamins. (See American Journal of Emergency Medicine, Vol. 22, No. 5, September 2004; Almost half of all Americans take nutritional supplements every day, some 145,000,000 individual doses daily, for a total of over 53 billion doses annually. And from that, two alleged deaths? That is a product safety record without equal.” More recent figures simply confirm this safety record for supplements.

Don’t Listen to the Vested Interests

          Mr. Bloom’s hit piece is pure trash and typical of the kind of scurrilous attack that the drug industry launches in the mainstream media all the time.  That his hit piece appeared in a freedom-loving publication such as The American Spectator is nothing short of baffling.  Calling for more regulation of an already over-regulated supplement industry, Mr. Bloom’s approach is both anti-freedom and makes no sense.  Should the supplement industry really be elevated to, say, the level of careful regulation that lets the drug industry get away with marketing products leading to the deaths of more than 100,000 Americans every year!  Or should supplements be as tightly regulated as the financial industry?  We all know now what a disaster that was when the most-heavily regulated business in America crashed and burned a few years ago amidst incredible corruption and fraud.

          No, Mr. Bloom, please go back to your Masters and tell them that they should actually fight fair in a free-market economy.  Let supplements finally be able to make truthful claims about their many health and preventative benefits.  Are they drugs?  Actually, the science shows that many of them can safely and with no side effects replace the dangerous and deadly drugs that Mr. Bloom’s Masters would restrict us to.  This is what the drug industry is afraid of and this is exactly why they pummel you with pure propaganda every chance that they get.  All I can say to you – to repeat a famous 1984 film line – is, “If you want to live, come with me.”

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