CGMP Makes War on Nutritional Supplements

Cometh the CGMP Storm Troopers

CGMP Makes War on
Nutritional Supplements

he glorious victory that many have claimed for the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 was never true. In its favor, DSHEA held the regulatory hounds of war at bay for a few years. But to its detriment, it seeded the mechanism that may end up eventually controlling every aspect of the nutritional industry. DSHEA did this by authorizing the FDA to develop and impose full pharmaceutical Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) standards for dietary supplements. As could have been expected—given the sinister nature of political interference in the marketplace—it was just a matter of time until the full force of rampant bureaucracy collided with our industry.

On March 7 the hammer came down with a 547-page proposed rule, “Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packing, or Holding Dietary Ingredients and Dietary Supplements.” The “standards” put forth in this document are so severe that they exceed those imposed upon the pharmaceutical companies, which are Goliaths with virtually unlimited resources in comparison to nutritional companies. With the cost of taking a drug to market now approaching one billion dollars, it is outrageous to establish equality of “standards” between the two industries. Yet, as proposed, CGMP for nutritional companies is harsher.

For starters, the proposed CGMP would require manufacturers to evaluate the identity, purity, quality, strength, and composition of their dietary ingredients and dietary supplements for every batch. This would be particularly onerous and expensive for small companies that manufacture complex formulations. For a multivitamin containing 45 ingredients, the cost of analysis, by the proposal’s estimates (undoubtedly low) would be $30,000 or more per batch! For batches of 1000 bottles or less—a good-size run for a small company—the added burden of evaluation alone would at least triple the price. Thus, if this requirement holds, the result would be a skewing of production toward the simplest formulations and a scarcity of quality multivitamin formulations. When only the largest companies are left making multivitamins, chances are they will be more likely to comply with 100% of the recommended daily values. They will toe the correct political line.

CGMP would ensure not only a rollback of complex products, but also hinder or halt the development of new products, thus severely diminishing the spirit of creativity that characterizes our industry and makes us the envy of the world.

However, batch evaluation is but one small part of the onus of CGMP. Whole divisions of “qualified” and “certified” personnel, the red tape of endless protocols, functional codes such as an “adequate” number of lavatories, and mounds and mounds of paperwork would cleave the bottom line from all but the largest companies. There can be little doubt that the proposed rule would level most small businesses (which comprise most of the industry), like a daisy-cutter can level a city. Far fewer companies would survive, and these would tend to be the largest and most conservative, resulting in significantly less competition and far less innovation.

Worst of all, the FDA would have the right to conduct unrestricted inspections of nutritional companies at their discretion and could, for subjective reasons (a substantial portion of the proposed code is difficult to quantify—the word “adequate” is used 111 times in the proposal), shut down companies that are in their political beacon.

As things stand, the industry and all who would respond to this proposal have until June 7 to file their critiques. When these are answered, as it is the FDA’s task to do, it will be patently clear that the FDA’s solution to “good manufacturing” is nothing less than the imposition of arbitrary and undefined powers enabling it to exercise repression of all with whom it disagrees.

The proposed regulations would force a jackboot into the door of every nutritional concern, big or small, giving the FDA entry and discretionary overwhelming powers to shut down businesses for a tidal wave of codes that can be followed only at enormous expense, at best, and by halting and reversing the progress of nutritional science, at worst.

Make no mistake: CGMP is not really about quality control. This proposal hands the FDA the powers to do everything that they’ve ever wanted, to run around the Constitution—they have said that they don’t believe the First Amendment applies to themselves!—and to find a rationale to dramatically increase their budget, not to mention protecting the pharmaceutical industry, the triumph of which has always been regarded as in the best interest of the regulatory profession (fees by the pharmaceuticals for “fast-track” approval swell the FDA larders by a significant percentage of its budget).

In the face of all this mayhem, is there a positive note? Under the Administrative Procedures Act, the FDA is required by law to conduct impact studies to determine how their proposed regulations would impact small businesses—but will they? It may be necessary to sue the FDA to force the issue, and by the way, it will take at least four years to implement the proposal. A lot can happen during that time. And, of course, there’s the United States Constitution, which, while not perfect, is a hell of a lot better than what we have now.

FREE Subscription

  • You're just getting started! We have published thousands of scientific health articles. Stay updated and maintain your health.

    It's free to your e-mail inbox and you can unsubscribe at any time.
    Loading Indicator