September 9, 2011

Buyers of Herbal Medicines – BEWARE! - P4

Then the final piece of the puzzle is governmental actions that make the picture grim for all concerned. And this is also the most puzzling part of the mistake picture. Government legislation is often passed to correct mistakes, but the agencies do not enforce what they have on the books and ignore some of the powers already granted to them. The FDA, USDA, and several other governmental agencies have neglected to due their due diligence in the area of herbal medicines.

The majority of herbal medicines and supplements are classified under the category of food and unless they advertise that it treats a disease or something that it does not, generally they are left alone until AMA decides they want to rattle cages and get the support of a few members of congress that decide to see if there is anything to actually be concerned about. Sometimes there is, but most of the time there is much posturing and nothing more. That is politics.

Occasionally an manufacturer will add something that is not permitted and not added to the list of ingredients, over add an ingredient and not change the percentage, or will get brave and decide to advertise something they should not and then the FDA steps in and does an investigation and often orders a recall, and assesses a fine. The only time FDA orders an herbal medication banned is when it is doing harm and has damaging health effects.

Most of the time everything works like it should and when this happens, the AMA is sure to step in to stir the pot and attempt to get congress to take some action.

While I do not always agree with the attempts by the AMA to shut the herbal manufacturers down and put them out of business, this is part of the checks and balances that have become part of our regulatory system. It just needs to be recognized for what it is.

Another mistake made by government is not testing random samples. The FDA does have this authority, but seldom uses it unless there is evidence of prohibited substances in a product.

Another area which may or may not be a mistake has to do with studies that could be done to determine when and if herbal supplements or medicines have any value for the average consumer and to what limit and at what dosage for different health problems. This could settle many arguments and be helpful to consumers.

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