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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Johns Hopkins: Find Way to Focus On Dietary Supplement Safety, Experts Say

A former principal deputy commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing a solution to the current gridlock over the regulation of dietary supplements: Focus less on whether these vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts actually do what they claim and instead take important steps to improve their safety.

Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, associate dean for public health practice and training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Mr. Akshay Kapoor, a recent graduate of the school, argue that the market for dietary supplements is riddled with unsafe products that may be spiked with pharmaceuticals, poorly manufactured or absent the stated ingredients.

Yet despite hundreds of recalls and outbreaks associated with death and disability, federal law on supplements has not shifted to strengthen oversight and protect the integrity of the market.  What’s keeping progress from being made, Sharfstein and Kapoor say, is an ongoing dispute over whether the products work. Manufacturers and many consumers think they do. Many public health officials and doctors think they do not. Calling a truce on these questions of efficacy, Sharfstein and Kapoor argue, can bring people together to improve safety.

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