What we think want to think about vitamins is really positive. However, they aren't really regulated by the FDA or have to even be proven effective. Can we be sure that these so called miracle healers are really safe? You decide.
Otsuka Pharmaceuticals of Japan owns Pharmavite, which churns out 15 billion pills a year. Pfizer and Bayer, pharma giants from America and Germany, are each big peddlers of multivitamins. Mylan, a drugs firm, is trying to acquire Perrigo, whose products include vitamins and “probiotics” (products containing live, and beneficial, bacteria and yeasts).
Worries over safety are graver. On September 1st America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to firms selling pure caffeine, one teaspoon of which has as much of the stuff as 28 cups of coffee. In April the FDA warned several firms that they had illegally dubbed as “supplements” products that contain BMPEA, a stimulant similar to amphetamine
The 1994 law let firms sell supplements without requiring the FDA’s approval for safety or efficacy. It also, for the first time, authorised firms to tout health benefits. They cannot claim that their pills can diagnose, prevent, treat or cure a disease, but they may make vague claims that it “supports a healthy heart” or is “essential for strong bones”, and so on. As a result, rather than restrain the firms, the law unleashed them. There are more than 20 times as many supplements on the market as there were in 1994.
First, further regulation is unlikely. Bills to improve oversight have never got anywhere. The FDA is unlikely to use even its existing powers. The Council for Responsible Nutrition has a $6m budget to boost its members’ interests. The FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplements has $5.2m to police the entire industry. Its strongest boss to date was a former supplements lobbyist who has since returned to lobbying.