Senator Durbin reaches out to industry trade groups urging support for Dietary Supplement Listing Act

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U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has sent a letter to four industry trade groups urging the association’s support in Congress’s efforts to modernize the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).

Photo © iStockphoto.com/uschools

Photo © iStockphoto.com/uschools

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has sent letters to four industry trade groups urging their support of Congress’s efforts to modernize the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). These groups included the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA; Washington, D.C.), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, D.C.), The United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA; Salt Lake City, UT), and the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA; Silver Spring, MD).

In his letter to CHPA, Durbin cited the enormous spike of poison control calls related to the unapproved drug tianeptine (from 11 between 2000 and 2013 to 1,100 between 2019 and 2023), and evoked the tragic death of Chris Haggarty, who passed away after consuming a tianeptine product masquerading as a dietary supplement. According to Durbin, the dietary supplement industry lacks oversight, and the dietary supplement industry that existed when DSHEA passed has exploded in growth.

“When the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (P.L. 103-417) became law in 1994, there were 4,000 products marketed as dietary supplements in the United States. Now, FDA estimates that there are more than 95,000 of these products on the market,” wrote Durbin.

As such, Durbin indicated in his letter that he would be reintroducing the Dietary Supplement Listing Act in 2024. The Act, which was originally introduced in 2022, would implement a mandatory product listing provision requiring companies to submit information about their products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “In the face of mounting public health threats, I urge the [organization] to help support legislative efforts such as this that would ensure the FDA can protect consumers effectively,” wrote Durbin. “I also request that the [organization] provide my office with a written plan to work with responsible supplement manufacturers to remove tianeptine and other dangerous or illegal ingredients from the supplement market.”

In response to Durbin’s letter, CHPA’s president and CEO Scott Melville, issued the following statement: “CHPA commends Senator Durbin for recognizing the need for a modernized regulatory structure for dietary supplements that will further protect public health. Recent reports about the presence of tianeptine in products fraudulently marketed by unscrupulous companies as dietary supplements underscore the need for key regulatory modernizations to protect public health. Priorities such as mandatory product listing, increasing inspection capacity, and clarifying FDA’s authority to better facilitate enforcement against unlawfully marketed products would enhance the Agency's ability to identify and more quickly remove illegitimate products from the market.

“DSHEA turns 30 in October, and since 1994 when this law was originally enacted, industry has grown from $4 billion to more than $50 billion today. Without modernization, bad actors will continue to prey on the fact that regulations have not kept pace with growth. DSHEA should protect the 21st century consumer who has access to an ever-expanding dietary supplement marketplace, and CHPA looks forward to continuing to work with FDA and Congress on the shared goal of regulatory modernization.”

In response to Durbin's letter, CRN made the following statement:

"The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) shares the Senator’s grave concerns that tianeptine is being fraudulently marketed as a dietary supplement when it is an unsafe and illegal substance. CRN’s members, and all responsible supplement marketers, do not sell this ingredient and condemn the sale of it.

"CRN has not only been vocal about the risks associated with products containing tianeptine misrepresented as dietary supplements, but has also shown steadfast support for enhancing FDA’s regulatory oversight through initiatives like a product listing registry for supplements. We offered our strong support for Senator Durbin’s previous bill seeking to make product listing a reality, and we look forward to working with him again if new legislation is introduced. 

"CRN urges the FDA to take enforcement action against these illegal, fake supplement products, and encourage consumers to be vigilant, avoid products containing tianeptine, purchase dietary supplements only from reputable sources, and report any adverse events related to tianeptine-containing products to the FDA's MedWatch program. Our support for legislative and regulatory efforts that enhance consumer protection, such as product listing bills, aligns closely with the concerns expressed in Senator Durbin's letter, emphasizing a shared commitment to preventing the distribution of dangerous or illegal ingredients posing as dietary supplements."

Updated on March, 19, 2024 at 2:52 PM to reflect the fact that Durbin sent multiple letters to different trade groups.

Updated on March 19, 2024 at 4:48 PM to include CRN's statement.

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