At the end of August /02 the California legislature passed a bill concerning the sale and labeling of dietary supplements that contain ephedra and steroid hormone precursors. SB 1884 requires specific warning language, the FDA MedWatch phone number, and a notice that the product is not for use by individuals under the age of 18 years on the label of all dietary supplements containing ephedrine group alkaloids (ephedra) or steroid hormone precursors, such as androstenedione and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). The bill would also make it a misdemeanor for any manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, or other person, to sell, transfer, or otherwise furnish a dietary supplement containing ephedrine group alkaloids or steroid hormone precursors to a person under 18 years of age. All indications suggest that the bill will be signed into law by the end of September /02. This action is in regards to the number of untimely deaths and other significant adverse events that have resulted from the use of ephedra-containing supplements and anabolic steroids. Adverse side effects form ephedra-containing supplements account for 17% of all adverse events reported from the use of dietary supplements, making these products the most commonly reported supplements for which adverse side effects have been reported. All health practitioners should be aware that ephedra-containing supplements have been associated with sudden death, stroke, seizures, and heart attacks, even in young persons. They are also known to commonly cause nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, palpitations, arrhythmias, and other troublesome side effects.
Americans May Soon Be Able To Claim Dietary Supplement Purchases As A Tax Deduction
Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently introduced the Dietary Supplement Tax Fairness Act (S.1330) to Congress. The bill would put self-care products such as dietary supplements on par with other medical care items by providing an IRS deduction to consumers purchasing them when their total medical care expenses exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income. Premiums paid for insurance covering supplement purchases would also be deductible. This bill was first introduced on August 2, 2001 by Senators Tom Harkin and Orrin Hatch, and is intended to give dietary supplements parity with prescription drugs under the U.S. tax code in an effort to advance sound health care policy. Tom Harkin explains, “our current policy is unfair and is failing to take full advantage of the potential to improve health and hold down health care costs through preventive health care practices available to consumers”. The scientific panel of the Office of Dietary Supplement Research conclude that, through this legislation, the public health community will have a valuable tool that can be used to increase the consumption of “disease-fighting phytochemicals”.
Senators Harkin and Hatch have been highly instrumental throughout the last decade in helping to create awareness of the scientific evidence indicating that nutritional supplementation may be a useful intervention in the prevention and/or management of many chronic degenerative diseases. Through their efforts, the Office of Alternative Medicine was established in 1991 at the National Institutes of Health, which later became known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). These two senators also introduced the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which has greatly improved consumer access to nutritional supplements and to the scientific evidence to support their safe and responsible use. In the words of Tom Harkin, “Consumers need ready access to high quality, reliable information. They need it and they are thirsting for it. And if it is done right, it will improve health, extend lives and reduce health care costs by keeping people healthy”.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that the budget for the Office of Alternative Medicine rose from $3 million to $50 million in 4 years (later to be known as the NCCAM). For the fiscal year 2000, the NCCAM budget was $68.3 million, and when added to the other research initiatives undertaken by other institutions and centers in the U.S., the total complementary and alternative medicine investment in research and related activities was approximately $161 million for the fiscal year 2001.
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