NPA Takes Grassroots Action Against RI Supplement Restriction Bill

Washington, D.C.—The Natural Products Association (NPA) is acting on multiple fronts to prevent supplement restriction bills from becoming law in several different states.

As WholeFoods has reported, many states are working to restrict access to weight loss supplements and OTC diet pills, putting them behind the counter and preventing those under the age of 18 from purchasing them. Recently, the California Assembly passed a bill of this kind by a vote of 44-12, sending it to the CA Senate. The reasoning behind these bills is the concern that these products cause eating disorders, but in 2019, NPA filed a FOIA request with FDA, and found no such association.

NPA warns that these restrictions will have a negative effect on both people under the age of 18 and on small businesses: Teenagers will still be able to purchase the products online, where the products will not have been vetted by any retailer, while retailers will face the financial burden of rearranging or outright renovating to put products behind the counter.

The most recent bill is S 2613, in Rhode Island, which hit the General Assembly on March 10. It restricts supplements containing certain ingredients. It restricts DHEA, a hormone naturally produced in the body that helps produce other hormones; DHEA levels naturally peak in early adulthood, and then fall as people age. It also restricts androstanediol, androstenedione, androstenedione, norandrostenediol, and norandrostenedione, all steroid hormones, some of which have been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Additionally, WebMD notes that androstenediol is a schedule III controlled substance in the U.S., as is androstenedione. It would also ban ephedrine group alkaloids: the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements reports that synthetic ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are found in OTC decongestants and cold medicines, and that a few controlled trials have shown that ephedrine plus caffeine has a modest, short-term (1-2 hours) effect on athletic performance in a physically fit population, but that ephedrine plus caffeine or ephedra plus botanicals containing caffeine is associated with 2-3 times the risk of nausea, vomiting, psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and change in mood, autonomic hyperactivity, and palpitations compared with placebo. A RAND report suggests that the safety of these products should be tested in a controlled manner, to study the possibility that ephedra or ephedrine causes these adverse events.

NPA has submitted testimony in opposition to the legislation. The RI State Senate Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the proposal on March 24 at 5 pm.

“So Rhode Island lawmakers want all health and wellness products under lock and key when we’ve seen their benefits over the last two years?” Asked Daniel Fabricant, President and CEO, NPA, in the press release. “At a time when millions of young people face malnutrition with serious long-term health consequences, this is the exact opposite of what lawmakers should be doing. Consumers need more access to vitamins and nutrition because most of them do not eat a balanced and healthy diet. This approach also defies common sense, as teenagers can buy calcium fortified orange juice but not vitamin C and calcium supplements. What’s more concerning is that this may drive teenagers to buy products online, where we find the worst abuses of product manipulation and mislabeling. It only hurts young people, Rhode Island’s economy and hardworking store owners who now face a costly new mandate that is completely unnecessary.”

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NPA is spearheading grassroots campaigns across the country against these bills—in Rhode Island, California, New Jersey, Missouri, New York, and Massachusetts. The campaigns—as well as how you can contribute—can be found in NPA’s Action Center. The campaign against the RI bill specifically can be found here.