One major complaint of companies marketing nutritional supplements is that the FDA severely limits their use of scientific findings in promoting the health benefits of their products. Under current FDA regulations, use of a scientific study to advertise the health benefits of a given product can convert the product from a nutritional supplement into a drug, and therefore impose the vast array of regulations applied to drugs. As a result, nutritional supplement manufacturers have to be very careful about claiming health benefits or citing to scientific research, whether on their product labeling or even on their websites.
In response to these concerns, Congressmen Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Jared Polis (D-CO), introduced what they are calling the “Free Speech About Sciences Act.” This proposed legislation seeks to soften the application of these FDA regulations to nutritional supplements. If the law were to pass, companies would be allowed to reference “legitimate scientific research” in support of claims about the health benefits of their products. In order to fall within the definition of “legitimate scientific research,” the study must have been conducted and reviewed according to certain standards, and must appear in a peer-reviewed scientific publication. Companies must also follow certain guidelines in presenting the findings, such as including an accurate and balanced summary of the research, providing consumers a citation to the study, and providing information about the entities who funded the research.