A Pioneering Doctor's Ideas And Clinical Experience
By John Hammell, Political Coordinator, Life Extension Foundation
In Germany, the trains run on time and the beer is unsurpassed, but pharmaceutical companies l ike Hoechst are working overtime to drive small Vitamin-Companies out of business in an effort to take over the supplement industry. Hoechst's vehicle is the Codex Alimentarious Commission, which is developing international standards for dietary supplements.
The motives of the pharmaceutical companies are revealed in a letter by Matthias Rath, M.D. (fig. 1) to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and members of the German Parliament. The letter is entitled "The Health Interests of Millions of People Are More Important Than The Stock Price of the Pharmaceutical Corporations."
In his letter, Dr. Rath, who is a German living in California, noted that a German proposal before the Codex Commission is being heavily pushed by Hoechst, Bayer, and BASF-the three companies formed when IG Farben was disbanded after the Nuremberg War Trials because of their role in manufacturing the poison gas used in the Nazi concentration camps.
Eradicating Cardiovascular Disease
Dr. Rath notes that he has developed a scientifically sound nutritional protocol for eradicating human cardiovascular disease, but that this protocol threatens the interests of Hoechst, Bayer and BASF-all of which manufacture dangerous, ineffective, and outrageously expensive heart medications.
Clearly-through their support of the Codex Commission-Hoechst, Bayer, and BASF are contributing to the death of millions of people who might otherwise have access to affordable preventive therapies. More than 12 million people die worldwide every year from premature heart attacks and strokes.
Advancing The German Proposal
Regrettably, the German government ignored Dr. Rath's impassioned plea, and held the Codex meeting in the pharmaceutical companies' backyard, Bonn. Moreover, they continued to advance the German proposal that could one day severely restrict access to dietary supplements. During the meeting, they jumped from step 3 to step 5. In two years when they meet again, they could jump from step 5 to step 8 of the Codex mandate and finalize things!
Do you want your favorite supplements replaced by expensive, patented, prescription drugs?
Unless a much bigger international coalition can be formed within the next two years to save our health freedom, we will see it stripped from us as the drug companies play a game called "boiling the frog slowly."
The Report From Bonn
I am writing this from the Hotel Europa in Bonn Germany because The Life Extension Foundation sent me here to report on the 20th meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission's Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Use. I just sat through a week's worth of meetings as part of the U.S. delegation, which was one of 39 member countries comprising a total of 187 participants.
Prior to coming to Bonn, I worked with Suzanne Harris, J.D. of the Law Loft in Johnstown, Colorado to draft comments on the German proposal for dietary supplements and other issues discussed at the meeting. (Our Codex comments can be downloaded from our web site www.lef.org on the Internet.
Ron Birckhead and I reported on the Codex International Threat to Health Freedom in the February and April issues of Life Extension Magazine. However, before I outline what happened in Bonn and what we must do to save health freedom, I will summarize the nature of the problem we are facing.
What Is The Codex Alimentarius Commission?
Codex Alimentarius is latin for "food code." The Codex Alimentarius Commission is a joint UN/WHO organization whose purpose is to "create a set of international standards to guide the world's growing food industry and to protect the health of consumers."
Germany has been attempting to manipulate the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Use to further the interests of the German pharmaceutical industry, by raising regulatory standards so that only the big drug companies like Hoechst, Bayer, BASF, Degussa, Fresnius, Rhone-Poulenc, Sandoz, and Novo Nordisk can survive.
The purpose of Codex is "...to guide and promote the elaboration and establishment of definitions and requirements for foods, to assist in their harmonization and, in doing so, to facilitate international trade."
Since being established in 1962, codex has produced 28 volumes of standards, guidelines and principles, including 237 food standards and 41 hygienic and technological practice codes. Codex has resulted in evaluations of the safety of over 700 food additives and contaminants and the setting of more than 3,200 maximum residue levels for pesticides. As of 1994, Commission membership included 146 countries.
The German "Proposed Draft Guideline for Dietary Supplements" calls for the following:
- No dietary supplement can be sold for prophylactic (preventive or therapeutic) use;
- No dietary supplement sold as a food can exceed potency (dosage) levels set by the commission;
- Codex regulations for dietary supplements would become binding, (which means that the escape clause within GATT that allows a nation to set its own standards would be eliminated);
- All new dietary supplements would automatically be banned unless they go through the Codex approval process (which would be very expensive, only slightly less extensive than the current FDA drug approval process).
What It's Like In Germany
All anyone needs to do in order to grasp the motives behind the German proposal is to visit any German health food store and pharmacy (called an "apothecary").
In a German health food store, you simply don't find the shelves filled with vitamin products that you see in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. or Australia. You won't find a single product by Twinlab, Standard Process Brands, Solgar, Solaray, or any of the other usual brands.
What you will find is little besides health food. You'll find organic vegetables, macrobiotic staples, herbal shampoo, skin creams, Birckenstock sandals, books on massage, and only a handful of multi-nutrient formulas in over-the-counter (OTC) drug form such as "Alsiroyal" royal jelly, vitamin E and ginseng.
Where You Can Get Supplements In Germany?
The answer is that you really can't! The closest thing resembling American products are high priced, prescription and over-the-counter drugs found in apothecaries, such as the "Apotheke im Stadthaus" on Berliner Platz in Bonn.
I took a list of the vitamins I usually take to the Apotheke im Stadthaus. The first thing that struck me was that I was blocked from even accessing the products I was looking for by a long counter that extends the full width of the store. Behind the counter, standing guard over the products was a phalanx of registered pharmacists wearing white lab coats.
I told one of the pharmacists, a woman named Christi Himmelfah, that I was moving to Germany for six months, and needed to know what supplements were available.
She asked me a slew of annoying questions, and gave me a lot of unwanted advice regarding my supplement program. I cut her short by informing her that I just wanted to price a few products and be on my way, and that I wasn't used to not being able to look at the products myself. She stared as if in shock at my "impudence" and proceeded to pull boxes containing various OTC drugs off the shelves lining the wall behind the counter.
All the products available in a German apothocary are listed in a Physician Desk Reference-like volume called "Die Rote List" (ISBN 3-87193-167-5). There one can find a complete listing of international pharmaceutical firms that manufacture patented analogs of dietary supplements sold as OTC and prescription drugs.
Through this you can see who the companies are that are trying to manipulate the Codex process.
German Rip-Off Prices!
Here is an example of how OTC drug prices at Apotheke im Stadhaus compare The with Life Extension Foundation's supplement prices:
LEF: Vitamin-C, 250 caps, 1,000 mg, $22.50, cost per gram: 0.090 cents.
GERMANY: Vitamin-C not available in 1 Gram caps, only in a quantity of 20, 1 Gram effervescent lozenges (Merck) which cost 6.45 DM or $4.19 U.S. (U.S. dollar=1.5263 DM). Cost is .209 cents per mg). German cost is more than double LEF cost.
The largest sized tablet of Vitamin-C in Germany is 250 mg (Merck) (a huge, hard-to-swallow tablet- they don't have capsules).
The German price for 30 tablets is 18.89 DM or $12.27 US (cost is $1.63/gram in Germany vs .09 cents per gram for the Life Extension Foundation product. The German cost is 18.11 times HIGHER than the LEF cost!
I consume 20 capsules/day of C, or 20 x 365 = 7300 capsules/year. My cost at .09 cents per gram (73,00 capsules x 1 gram or 7,300 grams x .09/gram = LEF cost of $657/year.
If I consumed 7,300 grams x $1.61 cents/gram, my cost per year in Germany would be a whopping $11,899/ year- or far more than I can afford to pay for Vitamin-C, especially when I figure the cost of the other supplements I take! The German price for 1 gram of Vitamin-C is 18.11 times higher than the LEF price! That is because the pharmaceutical cartel is controlling the market.
North American Pharmacies Move In On Supplement Market
Americans and Canadians had better wake up because on Oct. 14, 1996 a press release announced the publication of "The Natural Pharmacist," a new magazine exclusively for retail pharmacists who will vigorously pursue business that has traditionally been the province of health food stores.
This magazine was distributed at the annual meeting of the National Association for Retail Pharmacists (NARD) in New Orleans, and was sent to over 40,000 pharmacists in the U.S. and Canada. With the German Codex proposal pending, no consumer can afford to be complacent about the drug companies efforts to monopolize the sale of natural products.
Control Of Supplements In Norway
In Norway, drug companies currently control 70% of all dietary supplement sales. These products are being sold at grossly inflated prices as patent protected prescription and OTC drug analogs - when they are available at all.
In Norway, the you can only make a health claim for a natural product can only be made if it is licensed with the government as an OTC drug. Thus, in Norway, Schering Plough can make a claim on "Echinagard" (a patented analog of an echinacea tincture), while supplement companies are excluded from making the claim. In Norway, there are only a handful of herbs that can still be sold in health food stores. The drug companies are making it illegal to sell them in order to pave the way for the sale of their OTC drugs.
Hoechst, Schering-Plough and other European drug companies, which have been taking over the European market, are now eyeing the rest of the world, with efforts to pass the German Codex proposal and make the conditions in Germany worldwide.
Jamaica And Spain
In Jamaica, the Holistic Health Association has filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Health, which is attempting to require a cost prohibitive "drug approval process" for herbal products.
In Spain, a Royal Decree on Aug. 2 banned advertising of natural products unless they have undergone a costly drug approval process. Life Extension Foundation member Vance Lannaman is spearheading the lawsuit against the Jamaican government, while LEF distributer to Spain, Manuel Tevar, is trying to help coordinate a lawsuit against the Spanish government.
The Adoption Of A Flawed Preamble
In Bonn, discussion on the proposed draft guidelines for dietary supplements (agenda item #7), got off on the wrong foot from the start with the adoption of the following incorrect and highly biased preamble:
"Most people who have a balanced diet should usually obtain all of the nutrients that they require from their normal diet. People should therefore be encouraged to select such a balanced diet from food before considering any dietary supplement."
The delegate from India attempted to amend this preamble by proposing the following third sentence:
"However, people who do not have access to a balanced diet may need access to vitamins and minerals to safeguard their health." The committee however agreed to leave the preamble unchanged, (reflecting the pharmaceutical industries' influence on theproceedings.)
Recommendations For Daily Intake
The Committee did not agree on the proposal of the German delegation to refer to "recommendations for daily intake or estimated values of safe and adequate intake by recognized scientific authorities" and this was left in square brackets for further comments. The French delegation expressed the view that a distinction should be made between toxicological and nutritional aspects when safety limits were considered, and that the Committee should primarily address nutritional concerns.
No Agreement On Minimum Or Maximum Nutrient Levels The Committee could not agree on minimum nutrient levels and the level of 15% of the RDA was left in square brackets for further discussion.
Some delegates were opposed to the definition of a maximum level of 100% of the RDA. The Committee agreed to a proposal by the U.K. and Canada for alternative wording, setting the limit "to a level that is considered safe as determined by appropriate risk assessment methodology taking into account all sources of the nutrients in the diet", recognizing that nutrient interaction was one aspect in the assessment process. Both proposals were put in square brackets for further consideration.
Status of The Proposed Draft Guidelines
The U.S., supported by Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Japan pointed out that since there was no consensus on many aspects of the Guidelines, and further detailed consideration of the process put forward at the session would be required, the text should be sent back to step 3 for additional comments on the amended version.
However, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kuwait, South Africa, and Poland disagreed, and by simple majority moved for adoption of step 5 of the procedure. This decision was vehemently objected to by the delegates from the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan-but to no avail for the other side had simple majority.
The Chair cut off the voting once a simple majority was reached. If not, many other countries would have backed the Germans, and the vote would have been much worse than 10-7. Greece, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland were just a few of the countries that would have voted with Germany if the chair had not stopped the voting.
Health Freedom Efforts In Other Countries
The Life Extension Foundation extends thanks to Jason Sebeslav of Alive Magazine, Vancouver, Canada for helping with the grass roots effort in Canada. In Australia we extend thanks to John Lesso of Consumers Against Fraudulent Medical Research for helping get the word out there. In New Zealand we especially thank LEF member Dr. Kenneth McIver for his tireless organizing.
In the U.K., hats go off to Tom Potter of the Feelgood Factory. In Norway we owe Ron Birckhead a tremendous thanks, and I hope we receive enough donations that we can once again obtain Ron's valuable services.
We hope to meet the Netherlands activists who carried the battle there, along with activists from Japan who spurred that nation to oppose the German proposal.
Regarding Japan's opposition to the German proposal, we note that in the Sep. 1996 issue of Nutrition Business Journal, on p.23, there is an announcement about a booming Japanese vitamin market. According to Japan's Health Business Magazine, 1995 domestic sales for vitamin products are expected to reach $3 billion. In 1996, sales are expected to increase substantially due to recent deregulation of nutrition supplements from medicine to foods. This will make them more readily available at department and convenience stores at more affordable prices.
What Is Needed Now
The Life Extension Foundation is the leading organization in the world concerned with defending consumer access to natural products. We need your help in building an international coalition to oppose the German proposal and send it back to step 3 in two years when the committee meets again. We will be working with organizations in the U.K., Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand to help insure that this happens, but need monetary donations on an ongoing basis in order to conduct this vital health freedom networking.