Monday, 12 July 2010

Cry me a river

Nutraceutical companies are screaming bloody murder over European Union regulations that are beginning to give them the squeeze. You see, in the United States it's easy to sell whatever horse-anaq you want, making just about any claim you want, so long as you include the Quack Miranda warning:
"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
When I see that, I do not walk away. I run. Far far away. Basically, you can get away with whatever fairy tale you want if you throw that in your ad somewhere. There are few exceptions, such as specific medical claims, but woo-peddlers know how to dance around those requirements deftly. That's why you can buy all sorts of horrible substances as "Nutritional Supplements" in the United States, including ones that turn you blue.

Not so in the EU, under some new regulations coming into effect. Now you have to, Gasp! prove your statements. Thus, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth from the garbage-salesmen. BBC writes,
The Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation was adopted back in 2006 "to ensure that consumers are not misled by unsubstantiated, exaggerated or untruthful claims about foodstuffs", but it is only now that it is beginning to bite.
European Union member states have together submitted over 44,000 'general function' health claims on the part of manufacturers. These were boiled down to 4,637 claims for consideration by the Parma-based European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Of around 900 claims so far examined, a massive 80% have been rejected.
80% sounds generous. There's a whole lot of stuff out there, from magic bracelets with magnets to sticks of wax you apply to the forehead. Sounds like they need to tighten their regulations a bit, because I promise you, the remaining 20% has some real garbage in there.
"It can take three years to get these kinds of human studies together but in the meantime the claims are going to be wiped away," he said. "The regulation is killing this industry and the job losses are already being felt."
Oh boo hoo. You have to actually prove the stuff actually works? The pharma industry has had to deal with more serious regulations for decades, and aside from the criminally insane, few people would recommend we go back to the days where a snake oil salesman was a real active player in medical world. Derek Lowe of the excellent blog "In the Pipeline" writes,
Cry me a procreating river, dude. Or come over here to where you can't get near the market without going through the clinic first - and for a lot longer than three years, I might add. And where every claim you make for your product is hammered out with the regulatory authorities, and if they catch you stretching out past them you can get fined out the wazoo. So they won't even let you keep running the ads while you go fetch some evidence, eh?
I would be slightly sympathetic to the nutraceutical sellers if it weren't for the fact that so many of their sales people encourage people to only take their products, causing unnecessary death. Homeopathy, and other forms of this anaq, kill.

1 comment:

themadengineer said...

You can still find a few very old people in America who can remember the age of snake oil, when people could peddle any crap they wanted and promise the cure for all disease, plus the moon. And out of desperation, people often went for it.
The modern age is better, now that you can't say that your product cures disease unless you've proven that yes, it actually does.