A new sheriff in town: The FDA to crack down on the $40B dietary supplement industry

After vowing to clean up the streets of medical bad actors, the FDA has finally set its sights on the $40B+ supplement industry.


February 13, 2019

As new startups increasingly flood the supplement market, the Food and Drug Administration vowed to improve its monitoring of the $40B+ dietary supplement industry.

On Monday, FDA chief Scott Gottlieb announced the agency was ready to crack down on manufacturers that falsely plug the abilities of their “remedies.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night” is a bad phrase

People have been drinking the supplement snake oil since the ’30s — back when rickets and scurvy ravaged the streets.

But the supplement biz got really suspect after the passage of a ’94 federal law that minimized reporting and labeling requirements for vitamin, mineral and herb manufacturers — a still fledgling industry at the time. 

To prevent a company from selling a product, the law still requires the FDA to prove that it is unsafe. Problem is, there are now somewhere between 50k and 80k dietary supplements on the market.

Spoiler alert: Supplements don’t cure cancer

The FDA says that 3 of every 4 American consumers now take dietary supplements regularly — mostly due to the way supplement companies target specific “at-risk” demographics.

Last month, a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded most of the supplements that claim to help prevent Alzheimer’s, dementia and cancer, well… don’t.

While lobbying for Congress to strengthen the FDA’s authority over the supplement industry, Gottlieb specifically warned 12 of the major companies (including TEK Naturals, Pure Nootropics and Sovereign Laboratories) to stop claiming their products can cure diseases.

New year, new FDA

When Scott Gottlieb was first sworn in as the new head of the FDA in 2017, his ties to the big pharma industry had many rolling their eyes at what they saw as yet another regulatory puppet thrown into the White House cabinet.

But, so far, Gottlieb has made good on the Congress-sworn statements he made, promising to clean up the shady streets of medical miscreants, including threatening Altria and Juul’s partnership with an iron fist last month.

In recent years, the FDA has also cracked down on several sectors of the supplement industry including weight-loss and sexual enhancement supplements. 

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