By Dr. Mercola
Drug giant Bayer HealthCare LLC will be acquiring Schiff Nutrition International, a leading nutritional supplement company, for $1.2 billion in a deal that is expected to close by year's end.
Bayer reports that the merger will help them to "augment its organic growth," as Schiff "significantly enhances our presence and position in the United States."
Indeed, not only do drug companies stand to gain revenue by buying up supplement makers – they're essentially getting rid of their competition so they can control the ENTIRE supplement industry.
Why Supplement Companies are So Attractive to the Drug Industry
As a consumer interested in taking control of your own health, you have a number of "tools" at your disposal. Healthy food and exercise are certainly up there on the list, as is access to hundreds of therapeutic vitamins and other nutritional supplements, which are available over the counter.
If you choose to support your heart and brain health with omega-3 fats, or pick up some vitamin D3 and olive leaf extract because you feel a flu coming on, you can do so, and it's as simple as heading out to your local drugstore or health food store to pick up the supplements of your choice.
The drug industry, of course, would rather you head out to your physician's office and receive a prescription for a drug to protect your heart or treat your flu. Therefore the supplement industry represents the drug industry's greatest competition, and as the saying goes, you should keep your friends close and your enemies even closer … By buying up supplement companies, the drug industry stands to benefit in several key ways:
- Supplements as a category are yielding greater sales growth than the overall American economy and represent the greatest threat to drug company profits (the supplement industry is expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent a year through 2015, when it is expected to reach more than $90 billion1 -- as compared to the U.S. economy's dwindling growth rate of 2 percent per year).
- Drug patents are set to expire soon, in great volume, forcing pharmaceutical companies to find replacements for their top moneymaking drugs.
- Pharmaceutical companies can snuff out their competition by paying off politicians to write legislation that makes it too difficult for small competitors (i.e., supplement companies) to survive, and then buying up the large competitors that remain).
You see, the drug companies aren't stupid. They KNOW your supplements work! But it doesn't serve their bottom line to admit it just yet. Eventually, they can't hide the science from you, so they are quietly positioning themselves as key players in the supplement market for when that time comes.
Many Nutritional Companies, Trade Groups Already Controlled by Big Pharma
These large companies actually benefit from increased regulatory hurdles because it helps them squelch smaller competitors (who, by the way, often offer you better quality goods and services).
Not exactly the most nutritionally responsible group imaginable… And Bayer is not the only drug company getting its share of the supplement market. Other recent acquisitions include:
- Pfizer, which purchased Alacer (the maker of "Emergen-C" vitamin drink mixes) in February for $360 million
- Procter & Gamble (which is partnered with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries) bought supplement maker New Chapter in March for $250 million
The FDA is Also Attacking the Supplement Industry
One of the drug industry's "BFFs" is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has stacked the deck against the supplement industry in order to secure its continued financial support from drug manufacturers. Vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements have a tremendously safe track record, yet they are often singled out as being potentially dangerous by government agencies like the FDA. This – the notion that dietary supplements are unsafe -- was the premise behind the FDA's Draft Guidance on New Dietary Ingredients (NDI), which would have required the supplement industry to prove the safety of natural ingredients that, in many cases, have been on the market and used safely for decades!
Fortunately, public outcry made the agency agree to take another look at their proposed guidance and to issue a revised draft. It's still not known when the revisions might be completed.
The original NDI draft essentially claimed dietary supplements are unsafe and must be carefully tested in order to "protect consumers." The proposed safety thresholds even exceeded those required by pharmaceutical drugs -- despite extensive toxicological data showing supplements are FAR safer than drugs. Drugs have been found to be 62,000 times more likely to kill you than supplements! Why on earth would supplements need more stringent safety thresholds than drugs? It's another obvious attempt to eliminate competition for the drug industry.
Why You Don't Want Your Supplements Even More Controlled
There is no need for further legislation related to the manufacturing, ingredients, labeling or use of natural supplements. If anything needs to be more regulated, it would be drugs, which are far more likely to kill you than your vitamins. Data from the U.S. National Poison Data System's annual report, which tracked data from 57 U.S. poison centers and showed vitamin and mineral supplements caused zero deaths in 2010, while pharmaceuticals caused more than 1,100 of the total 1,366 reported fatalities!3
Yet, legislation is regularly being introduced that is calling for increased regulation of dietary supplements that is clearly intended to put us on a slippery slope toward a supplement pre-approval system, similar to the one being used by the European Union. In the EU, only certain "approved" vitamins and minerals may be used in food supplements, and only in very limited amounts.
You may not realize you have far greater freedom of choice with your dietary supplements than do Europeans—at least for now. In Europe, dietary supplements are considered prescription drugs, and are regulated as such. Many overseas tourists visiting America purchase thousands of dollars of dietary supplements to bring home with them, because their access at home is so limited.
If our supplement industry is captured by the pharmaceutical industry, you can expect legislation that will force you to obtain a prescription for natural remedies. This sort of restriction places the drug industry in complete control of supplements, both in terms of access and price, which is the LAST thing you should want if you value natural, non-pharmaceutical healthcare options.
Again, drug companies see the trends. Americans are increasingly choosing natural supplements to support their health. So drug companies are wisely seeking to capitalize on this revenue stream.
Supplements cannot typically be patented, but drugs can. No ordinary supplement company can afford to take a non-patentable substance through a drug approval process that on average costs a billion dollars (which, incidentally, pays FDA salaries). If supplements are treated like drugs, there simply won't be any supplements unless the drug companies take them over and control them completely. It's the perfect one-two punch: arrange legislation to bankrupt the supplement industry, and then step in to overtake it.
Get Involved to Protect Your Right to Dietary Supplements
The supplement industry is in a fragile state right now, and the outcomes of some pending legislation could be a major turning point. There is, for instance, still work to be done to prevent passage of S 1310, Dietary Supplement Labeling Act, introduced by Senator Durbin of Illinois in June 2011. This bill threatens the dietary supplement industry by giving the FDA power to regulate vitamins and other supplement as if they were drugs. The act was his reaction to a scandal surrounding Lazy Cakes, cupcakes with added melatonin to help adults fight insomnia. Some adults who purchased the cakes fed them to toddlers, and the toddlers subsequently became ill.
If you live in Illinois, contact Senator Durbin. Tell him—or whomever your representative is—to stop this overreach of power.
Congress never intended for the FDA to control supplements, and giving them this control jeopardizes your access to the dietary supplements you rely on, as well as further damaging the US economy. Please be courteous and respectful, and thank them for their time. Legislators can be very sneaky in their attempts to slip legislation through that fulfills their agenda, as this latest amendment demonstrates. The time to get involved is NOW. You are the best one to decide what's best for your health, and neither the government nor big business has a right to stand in your way.