AHPA Chief Information Analyst presents at 2023 NIH ODS Dietary Supplement Research Practicum
AHPA Chief Information Analyst Merle Zimmermann, Ph.D. presented at the Mary Frances Picciano Dietary Supplement Research Practicum held by the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) on May 24, 2023 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, MD. The webinar program covered a variety of issues, including background on dietary supplement use in the U.S., regulatory frameworks, support for academic research, and actions being taken to support quality.
AHPA participated in the third day's session on dietary supplement quality. Dr. Zimmermann provided an overview of AHPA's work supporting the herbal supplement industry; AHPA educational events, such as the 11th Annual Botanical Congress; and AHPA resources, including the Botanical Safety Handbook, Botanical Identity References Compendium, and the new edition of Herbs of Commerce. He also participated in a panel discussion among the industry and government representatives involved in the dietary supplement marketplace who also presented during the session.
This year's event also included vibrant discussion of the many ways that the regulatory framework in the U.S. provides access to traditional ethnobotanical uses. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) shared talks on their regulatory responsibilities related to both pre- and post- market safety, including structure and function claims, from Gerie Foss, J.D., in addition to Rebecca Allen, Ph.D., discussing regular inspections of manufacturers with a prioritized focus on those the FDA identified as high risk. Federal Trade Commission staff member Mary Johnson, J.D., presented on her agency's activities around supplements, focused around truthful and non-misleading advertising and the need for companies to have a basis in studies and research to support wellness claims.
AHPA has several educational webinars available on-demand with helpful information related to FDA inspections and dietary supplement claims, including “cGMP Facility Inspections Conducted by FDA: How Inspection Ready Are You,” “Setting Specifications on Strength & Composition,” “Post-Market Surveillance & Adverse Event Reports,” and “Navigating the Maze of Claims in the Dietary Supplements Market.”
One of the herbal highlights of the event took place during a session moderated by Dr. Barbara Sorkin, which included a particularly striking presentation from Ina Vandebroek, Ph.D., of the New York Botanical Garden. Dr, Vandebroek discussed ethnobotany and its translation to biomedical research, with her and Ella Vardeman, a Ph.D. candidate at the City University of New York, covering how the dietary supplement product class has allowed continued access to wellness traditions from regions in the Caribbean. Later in the same session, Nadja Cech, Ph.D., from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, gave a presentation on the synergistic effects within botanicals and their positive impacts on health compared to individual marker compounds or chemical constituents and methods to study these synergistic effects.
Sessions on tools and best practices for research support rounded out the event, providing a firm foundation for scientists interested in partnering with NIH or ODS in dietary supplements and health. AHPA's presentation also touched on research, with a showcase of the grant activities of the AHPA-Education and Research on Botanicals Foundation, its regular biannual review of grant proposals and current projects supported by the foundation.
"The Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institute of Health does a great public service through regularly organizing these events to support a broader understanding of wellness practices and tools brought to bear across the United States,” said Dr. Zimmermann. "AHPA's regular participation has helped inform these members of the academic and medical professions of the deep commitment and support our trade and members receive through the association in our pursuit of excellence for the over three quarters of Americans who make them part of their lives. AHPA is thankful for the opportunity to share the voice of the herbal products industry at this important educational event."
NIH's ODS Practicum was first held in May 2007, and was developed by Mary Frances Picciano, a Senior Nutrition Research Scientist at ODS until her passing in 2010. The practicum brings together representatives from government, commercial, and academic backgrounds, providing an annual opportunity for building a better understanding of how all these contributors to the dietary supplement market in the United States are committed to excellence. This year, approximately 300 full-time health care providers as well as academic faculty, research practitioners, doctoral students, postdocs, and fellows involved in dietary supplement research and students in allied health schools participated live at each session of the 3-day practicum, with over 1,600 registrations received in advance for the event.
Recordings from the practicum will be available to the public later this spring.