Dr.Andrew Weil whacked by FDA

lazy_gardensOctober 20, 2009

Dr.Andrew Weil just got whapped by the FDA for selling unproven herbal remedies against flu.


Is it my imagination, or has the FDA grown a pair recently?

Here is a link that might be useful: FDA enforcement letter

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I'll bet Weil wouldn't have gotten in trouble if he'd just stuck to advertising his herbal formula as a general "immune booster". Under current law, marketers can promote their unproven products if their ad copy is vague enough. From the FDA's standpoint, where Andy stepped over the line was in claiming that his formula was good for warding off H1N1 flu. It's surprising that someone with such a sales empire and having so much experience in marketing supplements would make this kind of mistake.

"Is it my imagination, or has the FDA grown a pair recently?"

They may be making some effort to limit healthfraud connected with current worries about the flu, and there was an indication recently of stepped-up efforts to combat false claims about cancer remedies. I'd still like to see evidence that they're following up warning letters with measures that have teeth. Traditionally it's been far too easy for promoters of bogus cures to escape prosecution, shut down their operations temporarily and reopen them under new names.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2009 at 11:18AM
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Maybe it wasn't a mistake at all, but a calculated move on Dr. Weil's part.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 5:48PM
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The sly dog. ;)

Except it's hard to imagine what Weil could gain by putting the spotlight on unproven claims for his flu supplement formula.

Some of Weil's defenders, meantime, are claiming the good doctor is an innocent victim of a Big Pharma plot. Who knows what evil lurks, etc.

The take-home lesson here is that there are big profits to be made by skating through the supplement regulatory loopholes provided by DSHEA. If you get too careless and/or greedy, however, there's always the chance of a slap on the wrist by our somnolent government watchdogs.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 6:09PM
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My brother just signed two $18million contracts with neutraceuticals. They are his biggest clients. He will be signing another, even bigger contract soon with a client who has made billions in the "penis enlargement" nutraceutical industry. The DSHEA loopsholes are so big and allow gigantic profits. If you think that penis enlargement is actually possible by taking nutraceuticals you may be putting your boxers over the wrong head.
Sorry, I believe that many supplements are worthwhile but when claims get over-the-top ridiculous and unsuspecting innocents start spending gigantic amounts of money on them I have no problem with FDA taking a look at the claims that are made. Look at all the health issues with the weight loss supplements that contained "natural" ephedrine and all the cardiac/neurological problems that caused. Or, the seizures that L-tryptophan caused back in the 80s.
Off my horse,
Dr. Tracy

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 9:33PM
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Tracy -
With Eric and I already on the horse,it's kinda hard for the horse.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 4:52PM
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I suspect you are right Eric, it is hard for you to imagine.
Just because someone believes in one herb, doesn't mean they believe in all herbal supplements. Penis enlargements and weight loss stuff is hogwash. However, just because there is a lot of crap out there doesn't mean that EVERY herb is bogus. I also have no problem with the FDA rooting out things that shouldn't be on the marketplace. And I don't think Dr. Weil was some victim of Big Pharma. Why does it have to be drugs vs herbs? Some drugs are good, some herbs are good. Perhaps Dr. Weil was trying to make a point that somewhere between "Smiling Bob's" ridiculous pill and a 10-year, multi-million dollar study, there might just be validity for SOME herbs used by trained professionals from a traditional basis of usage. BTW, many, many times those multi-year, multi-million dollar studies of drugs get passed by the FDA, only to be recalled quite quickly once in the general population.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 6:03AM
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I don't think Dr. Weill believes in all supplements - the issue here is promoting a particular supplement that he sells for H1N1 flu.

"BTW, many, many times those multi-year, multi-million dollar studies of drugs get passed by the FDA, only to be recalled quite quickly once in the general population."

Astragalus formula promoters are quick to point to support from the sort of preliminary, small scale/test tube studies that are far, far more unreliable than large multi-center clinical studies. It's interesting how alt med supporters will denigrate scientific research unless they think it's benefiting their interests.

lazygardens: the more and varied opinions expressed here, the better. Plenty of horsies for all. :)

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 8:39AM
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"Why does it have to be drugs vs herbs?"

It doesn't...and isn't.

Both here and when we've elsewhere discussed flu prevention, no one to my knowledge has been promoting pharmaceutical remedies (emphasis has been made on recommended strategies such as getting adequate sleep, good diet, avoiding public exposure (i.e. crowds) and using frequent handwashing).

Herbal drugs' efficacy and safety for preventing/treating flu are not well characterized at this point and pharmaceutical drugs for prevention are lacking. One proven strategy for flu prevention is vaccination, which works well when vaccine strains are matched well to circulating flu viruses (sometimes difficult to accomplish due to the ever-changing/mutating nature of flu viruses.

We should have only one standard for judging drug claims, whether herbal or non-herbal - whether they're backed by solid evidence, as opposed to advertising hype/testimonials/traditional practice (which in both alternative and mainstream medicine can and does turn out to be wrong).

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 12:55PM
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