The attack has begun! What started as investigative interest into the safety of ephedra after widespread negative publicity has mushroomed into an all-out attack on all supplements, including prohormones. Those urging prohibition of prohormone products have most recently pointed to general safety concerns, adolescent usage, and real anabolic steroids sold via “legal loopholes.” Rather than specifically addressing these issues, however, the remedies being proposed are so overly broad as to devastate the rights of adult Americans to optimize their health through popular dietary supplements.
One such remedy pending as of this writing is a bill (S. 722) introduced by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. Senator Durbin, an opponent of nutritional supplements, would place intolerable burdens upon the entire dietary supplement industry, treating supplements much more like prescription drugs. With respect to prohormones, his bill would go even further.
Anabolic steroids are Schedule III controlled substances, and people can be arrested and federally prosecuted just for possessing them without a prescription. Senator Durbin’s bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act, redefining an illegal “anabolic steroid” by adding the bolded language:
The term “anabolic steroid”’ means any drug or hormonal substance, chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids) that promotes muscle growth or is advertised or used to promote muscle growth.
What does the added language mean? Obviously, prohormone manufacturers and retailers could no longer legally advertise their products for muscle building. But the law already outlawed steroid compounds that promote muscle growth, so the added language must deal with those that don’t promote muscle growth. So, ineffective products that are falsely advertised to work become controlled substances, subjecting their possessors to criminal prosecution! Further, how can a manufacturer or retailer control (or be responsible for) the end consumer’s uses? What if the product was sold for some other purpose, but the consumer used it for building muscle? Who gets prosecuted? Is liability based upon issues of reasonable foreseeability? Let’s say an 80-year-old woman buys DHEA or androstenediol and then uses it for building muscle tissue. Under S. 722, that woman is a federal drug criminal simply because she intended to “use” the product to accomplish a very positive goal: improving her ratio of muscle to fat. But what about the retailer’s liability under the Controlled Substances Act? Is he a felonious trafficker of steroids? And what about the manufacturer? The law defies sensible enforcement and common sense.
Another dangerous bill is House Resolution (H.R.) 207. This bill would grant virtually unfettered authority to Attorney General John Ashcroft and his yet unknown successors to label a variety of so-called “steroid precursors” as anabolic steroids. Like S. 722, it would permit the arrest and criminal prosecution of potentially millions of Americans as drug criminals just for possessing these supplements without a prescription. Those caught with these products could even be subject to federal asset forfeiture laws, authorizing the government to seize and retain private property. This bill could allow not only sports supplement products but popular anti-aging products such as DHEA, 7-keto DHEA and pregnenolone to be shoved into a classification that was intended to be reserved for drugs with dangerous abuse potential, not for health supplements.
Who could be behind this oppressive initiative? The prime culprit is the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), an established organization in the sports community with a valid goal—preserving the integrity of competitive athletics. Sadly, with H.R. 207, USADA bigwigs are wildly overreaching their legitimate agenda. USADA and its registered lobbyists have created an entity called CASPER—the Coalition for Anabolic Steroid Precursor and Ephedra Regulation—to recruit support. Expectedly, long-time USADA allies in the sports community have signed on. But CASPER has also gotten medical associations on board—including the American Medical Association (AMA). Bizarrely, the AMA repeatedly opposed making anabolic steroids into controlled substances, yet now it supports making prohormones into controlled substances? Huh?
It’s unlikely that the associations that have joined CASPER fully understand what they’ve bought into. Propaganda issued by CASPER misleadingly suggests that substances that might be classified under H.R. 207—DHEA, for example—would still be available with a prescription. CASPER fails to acknowledge that these products would become controlled substances, not prescription drugs. Many controlled substances, including heroin and cocaine, are not prescription drugs at all. For a scheduled prohormone product to be available by prescription, it would have to undergo the long, difficult and costly FDA approval process.
Even if the product were to be approved at some future time, it would carry the heightened requirements and the lasting stigma of being both a controlled substance and an anabolic steroid. Physicians can be and often have been prosecuted criminally for prescribing controlled substances, including anabolic steroids, without “accepted” medical need, and controlled substance prescriptions are required to be reported to the DEA. Many experts in the AIDS community believe that the stigma attached to anabolic steroids as a result of their status as controlled substances had a chilling effect on crucial research into the benefits of steroids in the treatment of AIDS-related wasting and the use of steroids in said treatment. The result, they believe, was disastrous for many patients. It is highly doubtful that once DHEA is scheduled as a controlled substance that physicians will liberally prescribe it, if they prescribe it at all. To claim it will be as readily available as Vioxx, as CASPER has stated, is simply ludicrous.
In response to the attack on prohormones, the non-profit United Supplement Freedom Association, Inc. (USFA) was created. Unlike CASPER, the USFA seeks true prohormone regulation—not knee-jerk prohibition—to ensure legitimate public goals are met while valuable public freedoms are maintained. The USFA is comprised of consumers, scientists, physicians and industry companies who believe in the rights of adults to consume safe nutritional supplements. The President of the USFA, Richard Cohen, M.D., is a physician, and the USFA is quickly gaining support within the enlightened medical community. For example, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, with a membership of 12,000 physicians, scientists and health practitioners, has recently denounced H.R. 207 and urged support for the USFA.
The USFA has been working hard to increase public awareness of the potentially dire consequences of S. 722 and H.R. 207. We have been educating legislators who believe in nutritional supplements on the adverse impact these bills would have. We have been coordinating with other groups, including the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) and Weider Publications. A grassroots movement opposing the bills is growing. We should expect more from our legislators than something like S. 722 or H.R. 207. Protecting health and preserving freedom are not mutually exclusive.
The USFA needs your help. Please spread the word to everyone you know who cares about preserving access to safe supplements that these bills must be defeated. If either one passes, tomorrow’s adult Americans may be handcuffed and prosecuted for using products that millions of health-conscious individuals have safely used for years. Please visit the USFA online, where you can follow the instructions on how to write to your congressional representatives urging their opposition to this misguided bill. Alternatively, you can write or contribute to the USFA at the following address: United Supplement Freedom Association, Inc., One Old Country Road, Suite 250, Carle Place, New York, 11514. If you are involved in the supplement industry, join the USFA as an industry member today. Senator Durbin may bring his bill to the Senate floor as soon as late July or September! The time to act is NOW, … before it’s too late.
© Rick Collins, 2003. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal advice.