In a talk given at the International Conference on the Science and Regulation of Botanicals in Oxford, MS this week, Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance, gave an overview of how the concept of herbal dietary supplements has changed in the 20 years since the passage of DSHEA in 1994. Israelsen’s talk amounted to a keynote address. Dr. Daniel Fabricant of the Food and Drug Administration also addressed the meeting, but because he was leaving FDA within days to take the helm of the Natural Products Association, he was not in a position to say much.
Industry though its own eyes
Israelsen, who has been a part of the business as a company executive, consultant and industry association leader since well before DSHEA’s inception, framed his talk around the different conferences that have brought industry leaders together through the past two decades. Looking at the titles of those conferences gives snapshots of how the industry saw itself at those times, Isrealsen said.
“I went back and looked at the programs of all the conferences that have taken place in the past 20 years,” Isrealsen told his audience. “I looked at it through the eyes of how we have educated ourselves through these gatherings.”
Israelsen began with a symposium program from a 1993 meeting in Philadelphia titled “Utilization of Medicinal Plants.”
First, there was medicine
There had been a history of plant usage by pharmacists in the US that dates back into the nineteenth century. Compounding pharmacies that made their own herbal medicines on site from raw materials were commonplace, but as the power of drugs like penicillin became apparent and the modern pharmaceutical industry revved up, this approach fell by the wayside. There was a public faith in pharmaceutical science married to big business as a way to improve life overall.
But as doubts about the wisdom of that view started to creep in, companies seeking to offer natural health alternatives found that there was no easy way to categorize their products. And regulators are uncomfortable without a bin to put things in.