Target: Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Goal: Coordinate between doctors and federal agencies to improve response to poisoning
Doing the opposite of delivering on the health benefits they promise, dietary supplements have actually been tied to serious health conditions. May of 2013 saw the first cases of liver problems linked to OxyElite Pro. Months later in November, word reached the FDA, and the agency issued a recall for the product. Further delays can be traced back to a 2008 outbreak of selenium poisoning from a brand of multivitamin and later in 2011, when a work-out supplement used around military bases was found to contain a powerful stimulant, according to a New York Times report.
These examples point to serious flaws in the overall response to dangerous supplements. Most primary cases fall short of detection by the FDA, instead coming first to doctors or reported to poison control centers. Meanwhile, the FDA’s online monitoring system known as MedWatch, created to catch precisely these kinds of incidents, goes underutilized. When doctors do fill out reports, they tend to leave out critical information like the brand name of the supplement. The result: potentially life-threatening delays as the products remain on store shelves.
Most alarming is the fact that many people look to these potentially harmful supplements to improve their health. This lack of protection of consumer safety makes the need for greater coordination between federal agencies and healthcare professionals all the more urgent. By signing the petition below, you can demand an improved response for the detection and removal of dangerous dietary supplements.
Dear Dr. Hamburg,
I am writing in regards to the response of both the Food and Drug Administration and healthcare professionals to dangerous dietary supplements. The disproportionate reporting of primary cases to doctors and other healthcare professionals or poison control centers rather than to the agency capable of removing the harmful product from shelves marks serious cause for concern. While lack of coordination delays the recall of these dangerous supplements, consumers unknowingly continue to poison themselves.
I urge you to facilitate greater coordination not just between doctors and the FDA, but between healthcare professionals and federal agencies more broadly. Strengthening lines of contact may boost utilization of monitoring systems such as MedWatch and help keep healthcare professionals filling out reports accountable for the completeness of their information. The health and safety of consumers throughout the country depends upon your leadership.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Ragesoss via Wikimedia Commons