Sunday, April 13, 2008

The free market fairy is probably held up somewhere else

Witness the free market in action!
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) allows herbal and non-herbal supplements to be sold in the US without demonstration of effectiveness or safety. Despite recent improvements in Good Manufacturing Practices required of supplement manufacturers, these products still pose significant risks to the population simply because the hands of regulatory authorities are tied - products cannot be removed from the market until there is evidence for lack of safety, meaning that consumers must first be harmed before FDA is authorized to intervene.

Observe how it solves all our consumer woes with its invisible, magical hand:
The FDA notified healthcare professionals and patients that it has found hazardous levels of selenium in samples of certain flavors of the dietary supplement products "Total Body Formula" and "Total Body Mega Formula." Analyses of samples by FDA have found most of the samples contain extremely high levels of selenium -- up to 200 times the amount of selenium indicated on the labels of the products. The FDA has received 43 reports of persons from nine states who experienced serious adverse reactions using these products. The adverse reactions generally occurred after five to 10 days of daily ingestion of the product, and included significant hair loss, muscle cramps, diarrhea, joint pain, deformed fingernails, and fatigue. Consumers should stop taking the products and consult their healthcare professional if they experience any adverse events associated with the use of the products.

Lament those who would try to break the finger of the magical, invisible hand of the free market with their regulations and safeguards:
The Coalition [to Preserve DSHEA] is described as, "a non-profit coalition comprised of major suppliers of dietary supplement products and services, as well as leading industry trade associations and other supporters." This organization is also behind the website,, to "protect your access to safe, effective, & affordable dietary supplements."

Safe? Effective? Neither of these attributes are required by current legislation. So please don't insult us by implying this is the case.

Affordable? Now I see. Preventing any requirements for prospective demonstration of safety or confirmation of supplement content would certain cut into profit margins.

Silly Pharmboy. Don't you know that if you demand that things aren't poisonous, then production costs will go up, and therefore things will cost more? Just ask Erin Burnett:

And that's why the free market fails.

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