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Public Statements

Introducing the Consumer Access to Health Information Act

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


INTRODUCING THE CONSUMERS ACCESS TO HEALTH INFORMATION ACT -- (Extensions of Remarks - May 13, 2005)

SPEECH OF
HON. RON PAUL
OF TEXAS
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2005

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I rise to enhance the health and liberty of American citizens by introducing the Consumers Access to Health Information Act of 2005. This act ensures consumers can receive truthful information about how foods and dietary supplements can cure, mitigate, and prevent specific diseases. The act does this simply by correcting an erroneous court decision and thus restoring congressional intent to allow consumers to have access to information regarding the health benefits of dietary supplements without government interference.

In 1990, responding to the demands of the American people that the federal government respect consumers' right to receive information about the ways foods and dietary supplements can improve their health, Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. The intent of that act was to allow the manufacturers of foods and dietary supplements to provide consumers with accurate and specific information regarding the curative and preventive effects of foods and dietary supplements. However, the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, ignored repeated efforts by Congress to protect consumers' First Amendment rights to receive truthful information about the health benefits of foods and dietary supplements.

Incredibly, in the case of Whitaker v. Thompson, 353 F.3d 947 (2004), rehearing den. 2004 U.S.D. App. LEXIS 4617 (D.C. Cir. March 9, 2004) the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit supported the FDA's interpretation of Congress's intent and rejected the clear restraints of the First Amendment by ruling that the FDA had the authority to censor information regarding the specific benefits of foods and dietary supplements.

Mr. Speaker, under the D.C. Circuit's absurd interpretation of federal law, the only way food and drug manufacturers can transmit information about the health benefits of their products is by going through the lengthy and expensive FDA drug approval process. Because of this court decision, manufacturers are reluctant to provide all but the most general health information, thus ensuring that consumers remain ignorant about how they can cure or avoid diseases by making simple changes in their diet.

There are numerous examples of how the FDA's grocery store censorship negatively impacts Americans' health. Several years ago, the FDA dragged manufacturers of Cholestin, a dietary supplement containing lovastatin, which is helpful in lowering cholesterol, into court. The FDA did not dispute the benefits of Cholestin. Instead, the FDA attempted to deny consumers access to this helpful product simply because the manufacturer did not submit Cholestin to the FDA's drug approval process.

The FDA's treatment of the manufacturer of Cholestin is not an isolated example of how current FDA policy harms consumers. Even though coronary heart disease is the nation's number-one killer, the FDA waited nine years until it allowed consumers to learn about how consumption of foods and dietary supplements containing soluble fiber from the husk of psyllium seeds can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Thanks to the FDA, the American public is also prevented from learning about possible ways to prevent cancer, Alzheimer's, high blood pressure, urinary tract infection, and numerous other diseases.

At a time when health care costs are rising it is absurd for the federal government to prevent Americans from learning about how they increase their chances of staying healthy by making simple changes in their diets. However, this bill is about more than physical health; it is about freedom. The First Amendment forbids Congress from abridging freedom of all speech, including commercial speech. The type of prior restraint the FDA exercises over these health claims has also been thought to be particularly repugnant to the First Amendment. In a free society, the federal government must not be allowed to prevent people from receiving information enabling them to make informed decisions about whether or not they will use dietary supplements or eat certain foods. I, therefore, urge my colleagues to take a step toward restoring freedom by cosponsoring the Consumer Access to Health Information Act.

http://thomas.loc.gov

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