The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) often face a daunting task in distinguishing relevant matters from irrelevant or unrelated situations when taking up legitimate concerns. We’re at a time when American consumers can be vulnerable to countries where quality assurance of the production chain is questionable. For example cheap, contaminated CBD, food and supplements are often pushed to American supply chains from China. It is therefore understandable that ethical players in the food, supplements and pharmaceutical industries would come forward to support the FDA in their efforts.
Yet there can also be cases where regulators and the public need to use discernment to see through potential smokescreens. Recently, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest had investigated 39 fertility supplements – many which are sold by popular American retailers such as Walmart. However the media got involved and extended the scope way beyond what is considered “fertility treatment” and some articles were released where only partial quotes of official sources were released, which may have left the world with a possibly inaccurate view of this unresolved matter.
Does CSPI present a logical argument?
What they claim is that certain supplements, as a finished product, does not have clinical evidence. That would be quite relevant for pharmaceuticals with an active effect. However it should not have any relevance on a dietary supplement designed to “supplement the dietary intake”. This raises the question: if this is an irrelevant matter, why is CSPO, a non-profit, concerned with it?
“Fertility support supplements” does not mean “Infertility treatment”
One example is where despite strong evidence from years of academic research, that certain vitamins boost male vitality and others support women during times they seek to conceive, news articles chose to portray this differently. For products that actually contain specific vitamins, it is said that it “found no evidence they increase a woman’s chance of conceiving”. CSPI went as far as to advocate aggressive action from the FDA, blurring the lines between “fertility support supplements” and “infertility treatment”.
Conceive Plus responded:
In the UK, members of the public are quite outspoken and in favour of Conceive Plus – here is an example of women who attribute their pregnancies to using a patented gel. Although the product mentioned in the Daily Mail is unrelated to the supplements women take, clearly this kind of positive news travels fast and it is related to the same brand. It obviously has the interest of the American public too. It is only normal that all types of organizations, including the likes of CSPI will notice publicity of such epic proportions.
Nowadays it is common knowledge that prior to and during infertility treatment, many couples also rely on dietary supplements. Blurring the lines between these two will not benefit regulators, neither the consumer. Indeed ethical suppliers of supplements ought to label their products correctly so that it is distinguished.
Since being mis-quoted by sensational individuals in the media, Conceive Plus agreed to share their full statement which was issued in support of the FDA’s mission:
“Conceive Plus Women’s Fertility Support is a dietary supplement that contains compounds that have substantial documented evidence to aid the natural reproductive functions of the human body. The serving amount provides daily values that are in line with published clinical evidence beneficial to female reproductive health. We advise to start taking this dietary supplement daily, 90 days before planning to conceive to allow time for regulation of nutrient deficiencies in the body.
Trying to conceive can be an emotional time and we understand the willingness of some consumers to expect more from a product than it may offer. Our marketing and customer satisfaction teams focus on communicating the correct use of our products as per labelling indication and directions for use as a dietary supplement.
Infertility means not being able to conceive after 12 months of trying. After one year the patient can be diagnosed infertile and FDA approved fertility drugs may be prescribed. Perhaps the aim of their release is to bring this time period forward and allow infertility medicine to be prescribed to everyone.”
Most companies support the idea of accurate labelling which ought to be in-line with ethical marketing practices. However, there should also be caution for the potential that influential drug companies may eventually target unrelated supplement providers in an effort to bring forward the time period in which prescription infertility medicine is administered.
There is no evidence yet that any supplement providers in the US discouraged IVF treatment and recommended their supplements as an alternative. If so, or if promoted under the same banner as infertility treatment, this would raise the stakes for government agencies.
Fortunately for the American consumer: The FDA and FTC are strong institutions who have weathered many storms over the years. They have highly capable individuals who can distinguish between legitimate concerns and cases where conglomerates seek to create an unfair advantage in the market. US retailers and their suppliers should appreciate FDA oversight is there for the greater good and collaborate closely with these government agencies to promote a just outcome.