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FDA Announces HoKey Rating System For Health Supplements
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ROCKVILLE, MD - The FDA has released a new rating system for the rapidly-expanding health supplements market to assist consumers in determining what products are effective. The system revolves around monitoring marketing web sites, email spam, and late-night television broadcasts for mentions of the product in question. In general, each mention rates a point. The higher the point value, the less likely the product is to be effective. "Our research suggests that there is a threshold of about 1,500 daily 'mentions', at which the product can be considered useless. Anything above 2,500 was almost always found to be toxic," said Scott Ames, the researcher who has led the project for three months.

"Scott brought this up to me personally," said FDA Commissioner Mark B. McClellan, "because he knew I was frustrated that my hands were tied. We can shut down Tylenol's production line if a worker brings a fish sandwich into a clean room, but we can't say a word when a guy hawks shark cartilage as a cure for Alzheimer's. With this, we aren't regulating, we're just reporting. And it's automatic."

McClellan was referring to the web site the FDA has launched based on the system. Using the Internet search engine Google, the spam monitoring site SpamCop and the television closed-captioning indexing site TVEyes, the site generates a daily ranking for each supplement on the market. Called the Homogenous Key (HoKey), the ranking is built entirely from mentions the product receives in public media. There is no human intervention, and no "weighting" of the system takes place.

SpamCop's founder Julian Haight praised the new service, "This will provide a much-needed service for supplement consumers, while automatically cutting down on spam. These guys will know that every ad they put out will count against their ranking, but if they don't advertise, they'll die. Catch-22. Oh, well."

"This is going a bit beyond their mandate," said Dre Orlindrin, CEO of Several of CureZ4All's products have HoKey's in the lower 2,000's. "The FDA isn't a dietary organization. We don't sell drugs, we sell dietary supplements. They don't know about our studies, our focus groups, our happy customers. If we can't advertise, we're going to shut down. This is illegal."

"How are we not a 'dietary organization'? People like Mr. Orlindrin are accustomed to being able to do whatever they want as long as they wrap themselves in their 'supplement' cloak of invincibility. And that really hasn't changed. They are welcome to advertise all they like," said McClellan, "and he's right, we can't do a thing to stop them. But the American people now have a tool to decide whether they want to buy a particular product or not. Besides, we're only monitoring late-night broadcasts and infomercials. Why not take out a prime-time ad? Unless, of course, he's trying to exploit tired, bleary-eyed, unemployed hypochondriacs."

A class-action lawsuit has already been filed against the FDA on behalf of email and web marketers. The judge in the case refused the request for a stay on the web site's publication. The site is available from the FDA's main site.
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