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The senators also criticized the “inconsistent” enforcement actions of the Department of Justice under Lynch’s predecessor, Eric Holder.
Less than a month after being confirmed as the 83rd attorney general of the United States, Loretta Lynch already has U.S. senators urging her to take action on dietary supplements.
On Tuesday, U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) wrote a letter to Lynch, calling on her to direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to aggressively pursue “individuals and companies that illegally manufacture and sell misbranded drug products falsely labeled as dietary supplements.” The senators specifically mention “anabolic steroids, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), or analogues of APIs” as adulterants that the DOJ should be working to remove from the supplement industry, in cooperation with FDA.
“By selling adulterated products under the guise of legitimate dietary supplements, these bad actors hijack the credibility of reputable industry members and erode consumer trust in legitimate products,” wrote the senators. “Consumers deserve to have confidence that their dietary supplements contain only legal ingredients properly disclosed on the label.”
The senators also took a jab at the DOJ’s actions under Lynch’s predecessor, Eric Holder, in the letter. Citing some 400 dietary supplement products that FDA identified as adulterated over the past six years, the senators criticized the “DOJ’s inconsistent use of enforcement actions” against the manufacturers of these products. They added that the DOJ’s inconsistent actions under Holder “weakened the deterrent effect of such action.”
Although the senators applauded past instances when the DOJ and FDA have worked together to pursue criminal cases, they also noted that the “low number of such criminal convictions has had a limited impact on deterring would-be criminals.”
“Much more could be done,” said the senators. “Illicit behavior that puts the public health at risk warrants a full criminal investigation, and if appropriate, criminal charges should be aggressively pursued to punish wrongdoers appropriately while deterring those contemplating engaging in similar conduct.”
Aside from pursuing felony convictions, the senators also recommended that DOJ pursue misdemeanor prosecutions more frequently “as part of a focused-deterrence and selective targeting strategy against current and would-be transgressors.”
Dan Fabricant, president and CEO of the Natural Products Association, commended the senators for “elevating this important public health issue.”
“We are very grateful for the support from both senators on this important issue, and we urge them to continue to advocate for the FDA to use all legal tools at its disposal to protect the millions of Americans who use dietary supplements everyday,” said Fabricant.
Hatch and Heinrich requested that Lynch respond with details of DOJ’s plans to deploy a “forward-thinking regulatory and enforcement strategy,” as well as an update of any ongoing investigations into adulterated supplements.
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