I cannot recall anytime in recent memory when the alternative health community has been caught so unawares. Currently, your right to have access to supplements and herbs is under assault on three different fronts, and with frightening implications. Taken separately, each of these assaults represents a major attack on your right to choose, but taken as a whole, they are truly frightening. And what is truly frightening is how quiet the alternative health community has been. Very few people are responding to these issues separately, and virtually no one has put the pieces together and recognized the full import.
The Save Our Teens Anti-Andro Bill H.R. 207
This little piece of legislative Orwellian double-speak has received some attention from sources such as the Life Extension Foundation and the Health Sciences Institute, but to repeat for those who have not heard it yet…
In an attempt to “save our teens” from the use of muscle building “andro” supplements, this bill says that any precursor of an anabolic steroid would itself be declared a “controlled substance” requiring a prescription from a physician. It is important to note that mere possession of a controlled substance without a proper prescription is a Federal crime, punishable by incarceration.
So what’s the big deal? After all, aren’t anabolic steroids dangerous, and who uses andro anyway? Well, the bill also states that once a substance is identified as an immediate precursor of an anabolic steroid and declared a controlled substance, the Attorney General can declare the precursor or metabolite of that substance a controlled substance. That means that the Attorney General can, without any additional legislation declare things such as DHEA, 7-Keto, and Pregnenolone controlled substances. What are the odds that these supplements would be targeted by the Attorney General? Probably 100%. There is no other reason for this language to be written into the bill.
Yes, but most of you probably don’t use those supplements, so what’s the big deal? Well how about this for a pathway? Progesterone is a precursor for 17-hydroxy-progesterone, which is a precursor for androstenedione (andro), which is a precursor for testosterone. Bingo, progesterone cremes, which are used by probably 70% of the women who read this newsletter are now a target. How do you feel about losing progesterone crème and being forced to go back to your doctor for HRT prescriptions that don’t work and kill you as a side effect? And what are the odds of that happening? Probably at least 50-50. Self administered progesterone cremes cost the pharmaceutical companies millions and millions of dollars each and every year.
Look, this bill is so badly written that it would allow the Attorney General, on a whim, to ban all meat and dairy because they contain cholesterol, the ultimate precursor of all anabolic steroids. Is that likely to happen? No, of course not. But do you want an un-elected public official to have that much arbitrary power, with no recourse or ability to change his/her decision? This is very dangerous legislation, and it must be stopped. The doors that it opens and the precedents that it sets are truly frightening. It must be stopped. And this is just one prong of the assault.
Section 771 of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill
Now here’s one that most people haven’t heard about, and that’s because it wasn’t part of any legislation. You never got to see anyone vote on it. It was slipped in as part of the Federal Budget.
While most of us were sleeping during the late hours of February 13th, a last minute, seemingly “small and insignificant” provision was added to the huge $397 billion Federal spending bill. This provision would permit livestock producers, depending on cost and availability of feed, to label their products as “organic” even if the animals’ diets consist partly or entirely of conventional feed rather than organic feed. How’s that for doublespeak?
This is nonsense and directly jeopardizes the integrity of the National Organic Standards, which clearly state that any meat or poultry product labeled organic must be fed certified organic feed. It was part of a last minute deal struck on behalf of a Georgia poultry producer who wanted an exemption that would allow it to feed its chickens a mix of conventional and organic feed and still call it organic. This is outrageous.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Sam Farr (D-CA), strong supporters of the national organic program, plan to introduce legislation to repeal the provision. They need your help.
The fight for ephedra is over.
First, every bottle of ephedra will soon carry warnings that the popular herb can cause heart attacks or strokes, even kill. “This is not the end of the story,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. The FDA is “building the case for further regulatory action under the law.”
But that’s not the big news. Thanks to a long campaign of disinformation by the FDA, insurers are now refusing to insure any manufacturer who makes a product containing ephedra. Already, a number of companies have announced they are discontinuing the sale of ephedra products. Again, your right to choose is being taken from you with no recourse.
But isn’t ephedra dangerous? Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan of ephedra. I have never used it in any of my formulations. Not because it causes heart attacks and strokes, but because it exhausts the adrenals.
But wait a second, how can I say that it doesn’t kill people? Haven’t there been at least 100 people who have died as a result of using ehpedra products? And the answer is absolutely NOT. As Benjamin Disraeli said, “There are three kinds of lies in the world: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” The case against ephedra is based on statistical nonsense. The FDA compiled, over several years, a list of people who had died from heart attacks or strokes and had been using ephedra. Amazingly, they determined that 100% of the people on that list of people who died had been using ephedra. That’s pretty dangerous!!! Except for the fact that that you could compile the same list for water. Compile a list of all those who died from heart attack and stroke and drank water, and 100% of the people on that list would be water drinkers. Does that mean that water causes strokes and death?
The truth is that in studies comparing groups of people who use ephedra products with those who do not, there is virtually no difference in the rate of heart attacks and strokes!! Just as a point of reference, consider the latest cause celebe, Steve Blecher, the baseball pitcher who died recently, supposedly from using an ephedra product, and whose death was the final straw for the FDA. As it turns out, Steve Bechler had the following risk factors:
- a prior history of heat illness episodes while in high school – which heightens the probability of reoccurring incidents
- a family history of sudden death following exercise (his half-brother died of an aneurysm at the age of 20 after overheating from playing baseball)
- a history of hypertension and liver problems, including a severely enlarged liver
- he had not eaten solid food for a day or two, in an apparent attempt to lose weight
- he was apparently not adequately acclimatized to training in the heat and humidity of South Florida
- it appears that he was wearing two or three layers of clothing during workouts, again, in an attempt to lose weight
- he was overweight and did not have a high enough fitness level to make it through conditioning drills; and
- he was allowed to exercise until he collapsed with a core temperature reportedly of 106°F before being removed from the field.
Was the ephedra an added risk factor in his death? Possibly. Was it the cause? Not likely. Any one of the factors above could have killed him. The case against ephedra has been made with smoke and mirrors. But most important of all, your right to choose has been taken away through a back door route.
It’s your call whether or not you want to sit idly by and watch your rights be stolen away en masse. If you want to continue to have access to the whole range of supplements and herbs that make a difference in your life, you need step up to the plate.
- Call or write your Representatives (faxes and emails are virtually useless) and tell them you strongly oppose H.R. 207 and the power it gives the Attorney General to arbitrarily turn safe supplements into controlled substances on a mere whim.
- Call or write your Representatives (again, faxes and emails are virtually useless) and demand that they repeal the language inserted into Section 771 of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that undermines the integrity of the organic label for meat and poultry. Tell them you want the 100% livestock feed regulations retained, as included in the National Organic Standards implemented in October 2002. Tell them the National Organic Standards must not be undermined by special interest groups and private companies who do not want to comply with the rules that were developed over many years in a public process.
- Unfortunately, the fight for ephedra is over. Pandora’s box has been opened in terms of the government’s ability to remove supplements from the market in ways that allow no override — by manipulating public opinion. This situation needs to be watched carefully in the future so that the government can be called to task the moment it starts to mount a campaign of disinformation to remove another herb or supplement from the market. Otherwise, supplement after supplement could be removed from the market backed by the force of a misinformed public and press.