Friday, July 10, 2009

ABC’s Blumenthal Quoted in AP Article on Supplements for Pets

The Associated Press released an article yesterday regarding supplements for pets, which included quotes from ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal.1 The AP article, written by Marilynn Marchione, focuses primarily on concerns over the quality and effectiveness of supplements for pets—particularly those that are intended to offer nutritional and/or other support for arthritis and other joint conditions. The article has already been distributed through several major media outlets.

The article quotes Blumenthal as stating that quality problems have been associated with supplements, although many companies do a good job. Blumenthal is also quoted as stating that dogs and cats are unable to give their subjective assessments of a supplement’s efficacy, and that owners want to believe that the supplements they pay for are having beneficial effects on their pets.

These statements were pulled from an approximately 45-minute phone interview that Marchione conducted with Blumenthal on June 24, and many topics of that conversation and qualifications that Blumenthal provided were not included. For instance, Blumenthal discussed several companies that are conducting legitimate research on the benefits of supplements on companion animals (dogs, cats, horses), but these were not mentioned in the article.

The American Botanical Council published its own article on supplements for pets in HerbalGram issue 82, titled “The Expanding Market and Regulatory Challenges of Supplements for Pets in the United States,” written by HerbalGram Managing Editor Courtney Cavaliere.2 Marchione stated that she had read that article during her interview with Blumenthal, and she included a link to the HerbalGram article below her own AP story (found under the “On the Net” subhead).

In the HerbalGram article, Cavaliere pointed out that the nonprofit National Animal Supplement Council (NASC)—of which 90% of pet supplement manufacturers in the United States are members—has initiated many self-regulatory measures for the pet supplement industry. NASC created quality control guidelines and instituted risk monitoring procedures for the industry. Companies that manufacture supplements for pets that meet the NASC’s quality and safety protocols, and that have completed a facility audit, are able to use the NASC’s Quality Seal on their products. Although Marchione mentions the NASC and quotes its president Bill Bookout in her AP article, she fails to mention the NASC’s self-regulatory protocols or its Seal Program.

As noted previously, Marchione also fails to point out that some companies that manufacture supplements for pets are increasingly testing the effectiveness of their products. She quotes anonymous “veterinary experts” as saying that there is little evidence that joint-pain supplements for pets work, and she uses quotes from Blumenthal to support the idea that testing the efficacy of supplements for pets is particularly difficult. The HerbalGram article, however, includes information on a randomized, controlled clinical study to assess the efficacy of an herbal supplement called Pet Relief® (RZN Nutraceuticals, Orange Park, FL) for treating canine pain and lameness, which was initiated in October 2008 at Colorado State University. This study is testing a pet supplement for the very condition (arthritis) that Marchione focused on within her own article, yet she did not include any information about such trials, or quotes from researchers conducting such trials, within her own article.

The AP article on supplements for pets is the latest of a series of articles that Marchione has written about dietary supplements, beginning in June. These articles have been generally critical of complementary and alternative medicine and the supplement industry. Blumenthal provided some commentary on Marchione’s series, which was published in the July issue of ABC’s monthly electronic newsletter HerbalEGram and has also been posted on ABC’s homepage.3

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1. Marchione M. Tests reveal some pet supplements skimp on meds. Associated Press. July 9, 2009. Available at:

2. Cavaliere C. The expanding market and regulatory challenges of supplements for pets in the United States. HerbalGram. 2009;82:34-41.

3. Blumenthal M. AP publishes series on dietary supplements and CAM. HerbalEGram, July 2009;6(7). Available at: <> Accessed July 9, 2009.

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