An early magazine cover used to campaign for the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906

An early magazine cover used to campaign for the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906

Democratic governments are simply vehicles for popular expression – they should reflect their citizenry’s preferences and desires and build institutions ready to enact these preferences. When people in the early 18th century wanted the ability to communicate over long distances, an early United States government developed the United States Postal System with uniquely American qualities.

Likewise, in 1906, the American public demanded safe food and drugs in an era known for burgeoning consumer awareness. They got legislation in the form of the Pure Food and Drug Act. However, people continued to die from junk science and worthless cures for serious illnesses. In 1937, a company produced a medicine known as Elixir Sulfanilamide. Instead of suspending the active chemical in a safe and known solvent, the company used the highly toxic compound known as DEG (diethylene glycol). Over a hundred people reportedly died from DEG poisoning. Thus, in 1938, Congress passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic due to popular outcry. The FDA was strengthened.

The Elixir Sulfanilamide Disaster

The Elixir Sulfanilamide Disaster

Yet time and time again we write to you about the myriad substances – some unknown, some heavily regulated and controlled – that end up in over-the-counter “supplements” beyond the sleeping gaze of our only guard on watch. And why is the FDA so tired? Industry control over the FDA has produced an agency whose vigilance is more akin to a sleepy family member after a filling Thanksgiving dinner (let’s just say it’s expensive turkey) than the athletes who are downing “Craze” “Frenzy” and “MD2 Meltdown” to get a leg up on the competition. Perhaps bureaucrats at the FDA should consider using the aforementioned products, which all contain DMBA. What is DMBA, you might ask? DMBA is just the twin brother of DMAA, the chemical banned in 2012 for causing heart attacks and seizures. It’s showing up in a health food store near you.

These chemicals are coming from China. They are likely produced in dubious conditions with dubious raw materials. Yet, they’re legal for your teenage athlete to buy and “bulk up” with. Can’t you just hear the words “But mom! The rest of the football team is taking Craze – why can’t I?” Well, little Jimmy – it contains a chemical more similar to methamphetamine than caffeine, that’s why. It’s dangerous for your heart. It’s dangerous for your body. More importantly, it resembles the beginning of every supplement-gone-awry story ever told in the 20th century. Remember the fen-phen litigation? Well, that one was prescribed by doctors and only caused holes in peoples’ hearts. How about the ban on ephedrine? Ephedrine is the stimulating chemical that was being slipped into supplements while also existing as a precursor for methamphetamine. And of course, DMAA, which quite literally stopped the hearts of some marathoners before they even reached the finish line.

We believe in a strengthened FDA. We also believe in the repeal of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (“DSHEA”), which effectively denies FDA authority over the supplement industry. It’s a billion dollar industry with an army of lobbyists who have strengthened the law into a near impenetrable fortress. Many supplements are supported by quack science and late night TV doctors. Most are useless. Some contain chemicals that have never been tested on humans. It’s a game of Russian roulette that only the FDA can stop, if we give it the power (and perhaps some DMBA).