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Three proposed amendments to limit military access to dietary supplements failed to make it to a floor vote in the senate last week.
Three proposed amendments to limit military access to dietary supplements failed to make it to a floor vote in the senate last week after concerted opposition from the dietary supplement industry.
Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the supplement-related amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on June 3. The amendments called for military personnel to track adverse events regarding dietary supplements, called for service men and women to report their supplement use to military healthcare providers, and limited the sale of dietary supplements in commissary and exchange stores.
But when the NDAA passed the senate on June 18 with a veto-proof majority of 71-25, the Blumenthal/Durbin amendments were nowhere to be seen in the final bill. The victory for the dietary supplement industry came after weeks of unified lobbying efforts from the industry, including the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN; Washington DC) annual Day on the Hill.
“It’s a reminder that when there is a true threat to the dietary supplement industry, all five trade associations work very well together and we speak very clearly with one voice when it comes to anything that’s a threat to DSHEA [Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994],” said Mike Greene, vice president, government relations, CRN.
CRN’s Day on the Hill
It may have been unfortunate timing for Senators Blumenthal and Durbin-but great timing for the supplement industry-that CRN’s 12th annual Day on the Hill took place on June 17, just as the senate was making a decision on the amendments. Greene said that a record-breaking 75 CRN member company executives turned out for the big lobbying day, and that senators were generally receptive to their message.
“People understood that the laws were duplicative of current federal law, or in some cases it was unique and onerous specifically to military service men and women, specifically for them having to report the dietary supplements they may use when you don’t have to do that anywhere else,” said Greene. “They understood that the specific amendments to our military were not necessarily something that was useful or potentially address the overall concerns without our industry that we’re dealing with right now-concerns about whether or not FDA is enforcing the law, how well they’re enforcing it, and concerns about egregious actors who are out there marketing products, spiking products. These three amendments did nothing to address that, and I think that was heard loud and clear in the meetings that we had with the senate.”
Greene was excited to see that roughly one third of the 75 CRN members who turned out on June 17 were executives coming to lobby for the first time.
Aside from the military supplement issue, CRN also worked to educate legislators about the responsible and well-regulated nature of the supplement industry, thank them for passing the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2014, call for more funding for FDA specific to dietary supplements, and encourage them to join the dietary supplement caucus.
“The caucus, which is a group of members of congress who share a common interest in dietary supplements, is the best and most meaningful way that we can help educate congress about dietary supplements,” said Greene. “It now has, I believe, 35 members of congress as members.”
Also during CRN’s Day on the Hill, six representatives and three senators stopped by to talk to CRN’s members about their experiences with dietary supplements. Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Jared Polis (R-CO), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Tony Cardenas (D-CA), as well as Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and John Boozman (R-AR), all dropped by to visit with CRN members.
“It was nice to have both new and old friends come by and touch base with CRN’s members and talk about the issues that they’re addressing right now,” said Greene.
Senators Blumenthal and Durbin may have been unsuccessful in attaching these amendments to the NDAA, but there could be more opportunities to introduce similar legislation in the coming months.
“Certainly it could come up in the future, if Senators Durbin or Blumenthal wanted to attach it to an appropriations bill,” said Greene. “From what we understand right now, the appropriations process will be a lot more complicated than the defense authorization process. In other words, it may not necessarily be as easy as one would think to just turn around and offer the amendments to the appropriations bill.”
Greene stressed that CRN is working to keep the lines of communications open with both senators. Even if the dietary supplement amendments related to the military do not resurface in the near future, Greene believes the senators will likely be looking for other ways to push additional regulations of dietary supplements.
“I think the next major issue that we’ll be addressing, that we know of, will probably be the reintroduction of Senator Durbin’s Dietary Supplement Labeling Act,” said Greene. “This is legislation that Senator Durbin has introduced now for the past two congresses.”
Greene suspected that Senator Durbin’s labeling legislation will be updated to include language for a registration or a notification of labels in a database, as well as additional elements possibly inspired by the New York Attorney General’s ongoing investigation into the dietary supplement industry. Based on CRN’s communications with Senator Durbin’s office, Greene said the act might be introduced as soon as July or September.
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Photo courtesy of the Council for Responsible Nutrition.