California bill restricting access to weight management supplements has passed Senate Judiciary Committee

California Assembly Bill 1341, which restricts minors from purchasing dietary supplements and OTC products marketed for weight management, has been passed by the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee on June 21, 2022 by a vote of 4 to 1.

California Assembly Bill 1341, which restricts minors from purchasing dietary supplements and OTC products marketed for weight management, has been passed by the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee on June 21, 2022 by a vote of 4 to 1. Advocates of the bill, such as the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED), believe that there is an association between “diet pills” and the development of eating disorders. Additionally, advocates state that dietary supplement manufacturers that sell weight management products use predatory marketing that attracts young people, and that because of a lack of FDA oversight of dietary supplements, many of these products are adulterated with drug ingredients that pose a danger to users.

Opponents of the bill, namely the Natural Products Association (NPA; Washington, D.C.), state that advocates are relying on a flawed premise to draw false conclusions about dietary supplements. According to NPA, research cited by advocates of the bill do not demonstrate a causal relationship between dietary supplements and eating disorders and that FDA’s own adverse events reporting system, called MedWatch, has not had any reports indicating that consumption of weight management products has resulted in eating disorders. This is in contrast to drugs like Topiramate, which was determined by FDA to increase the risk of developing or worsening eating disorder because of MedWatch reports. The adverse events reporting system has also flagged the development of other psychiatric disorders as a results of prescription drug use, such as depression and anxiety.

While the bill’s language has softened following amendments, NPA is stil wary of the potential implications for manufacturers and retailers. “One: [the bill] still puts the authority in the hands of the eating disorder community to dictate what products will be prohibited, which is a major concern. Then, two: while it doesn’t list out specific ingredients anymore, there is still the opportunity for ingredients to get flagged,” explained Kyle Turk, NPA’s director of government affairs. For example, while the bill states that the restrictions only apply to products marketed for weight management, because certain ingredients such as L-carnitine or caffeine may be marketed for weight management in some products, other products such as protein powders not marketed for weight management may be subject to restriction as well if they contain the aforementioned ingredients.

Additionally, the bill states that weight management products cannot be sold to minors without a prescription from a physician. Well, not all brick-and-mortar retailers are currently set up to process prescriptions, and because of a law passed earlier this year in California, most prescriptions must be transferred electronically. This would be cost prohibitive for some small business owners to implement, says NPA.

With the bill’s passage in the Senate Judiciary, it has moved on to the Senate Appropriations Committee. If it passes Appropriations, the bill will go to the full Senate for a vote.