Powerful Anti-Supplement Congressman Henry Waxman Retires

waxmanWhew! We won’t soon forget the all-night conference committee meeting in which Waxman tried to slip in an anti-supplement amendment written so that even a lawyer could not understand it.

On January 30, 2014, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced his retirement from the House after forty years of service. Waxman is considered one of the most productive lawmakers of modern times, helping to pass major legislation on an almost annual basis. President Obama has called Congressman Waxman “one of the most accomplished legislators of his or any era.”

We regard Waxman as a kind of tragic figure. He almost certainly came to Washington as an idealist who wanted to work for the public good. Even when he developed his mastery of all the most underhanded tricks, such as attaching provisions to unrelated bills, writing them in language no one could understand, slipping new items into conference bills, and trading of votes, we feel sure he thought that he was doing it for good causes.

In many cases, what Waxman actually got from his successful legislation was unintended. For example, he passed a bill mandating that either MBTE or ethanol be added to gasoline. Eventually MBTE was largely banned for contamination of groundwater and ethanol became a crony capitalist boondoggle that did not even benefit the environment.

Waxman considered himself a strong environmentalist but passed a clean energy bill that ended up being supported by coal companies and opposed by environmental groups. As healthcare legislation emerged in his committee, he once again seemed to have been captured by corporate interests, in this case, health insurers, who were also major campaign contributors to him.

When Waxman decided that toys were dangerous to children, he passed legislation that mainly put small, artisanal toymakers out of business, thereby serving the interest of giant corporations.

We never knew why this powerful congressman was so hostile to dietary supplements, although he was supported by Big Pharma. The odd part of it was that his district included part of Hollywood. It must have included health food stores and many of his constituents and supporters would have been supporters of natural health.

Notwithstanding his district, Waxman wanted supplements treated like drugs, even though they can’t be patented, and being non-patentable, nobody will pay a billion dollars to take them through the FDA drug-approval process. Even if supplement prices were raised to drug levels, they would still just disappear, because of the lack of patent protection. Waxman is very smart. He must have understood all this.

The greatest irony perhaps is that when it came to protecting  access to dietary supplements, natural health activists succeeded in outmaneuvering one of Washington’s most clever and powerful players at every turn:

  • Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009: Defeated! FSEA, also known as the Waxman-Dingell bill, would have given FDA unprecedented power over supplement producers and small farmers, even allowing ten-year prison terms for minor administrative violations! But calls and messages to Congress ensured this bill never made it out of the Senate.
  • Anti-Supplement Amendment to the Wall Street Reform Act: Rejected! In 2010, Congressman Waxman introduced an amendment that would have awarded the Federal Trade Commission the power to essentially disregard DSHEA—the main legislation protecting consumer access to supplements. The provision’s language was virtually indecipherable to any but a trained legislative expert, and was buried in a completely unrelated bill. This amendment could have easily passed unnoticed— but it was discovered in time and congressional conferees were flooded with messages.
  • GAO Fear-Mongering on Supplement AERs: Flopped! In the wake of several failed anti-supplement bills, Congressman Waxman allied himself—as you might expect—with anti-supplement Senator Dick Durbin to try a new tactic: they asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review adverse event reports (AERs) for dietary supplements. The goal was to prove how “dangerous” dietary supplements were…and instead overwhelmingly demonstrated their safety.
  • Desire to Amend DSHEA: Thwarted! Since DSHEA passed in 1994, Rep. Waxman has been eager to repeal it. Thanks to natural health activists, as well as our staunch Congressional allies, Rep. Waxman’s wish never came true.

As you might have guessed from all this, Rep. Waxman’s top supporters were from conventional medicine. This is clearly reflected in his fundraising: in 2012 alone, his reelection fund and PAC received $187,000 from health professionals, $89,250 from hospitals, and $64,000 from pharmaceutical and “health product” companies.

Although Waxman was doggedly anti-supplement, there were brief moments when we were on the same side. For example, in 2009, he called out the FDA for granting special favors to chemical makers, and demanded the FDA reassess the safety of BPA. He also reportedly supported removing Section 1613 from the current Farm Bill, which would have essentially covered up Big Farma’s agricultural, ecological, and animal rights disasters.

As Rep. Waxman himself famously said, nothing is ever “settled for good” in Washington. ANH-USA will keep an eye out for Capitol Hill’s next Waxman. There will always be people who for whatever reason are trying to use government to create health product monopolies and force us all into a one-size-fits-all style of medicine. But no one, we hope, will ever be so skilled at sneaky legislative maneuvers.


  1. Let’s hope Waxman’s regressive and repulsive personality is replaced by a forward thinking member of the human race, and of this era. The Dark Ages need to be put to rest, once and for all. It’s amazing to me how many backward, slack-jawed individuals are in the top echelons of our government, making and supporting dangerous decisions and agendas that are against the good of the American people, as well as their will.
    Thank God he’s gone.

  2. I cannot take many patented medicines because of allergies to some of the fillers used. This means sometimes I have to use a Compound Pharmacy. Sometimes supplements are the perfect answer. I take many vitamins for different conditions and find them beneficial. I would not like to see them taken off the market as you cannot eat enough food to get all the necessary vitamins, especially if you have allergies. So being regulated by the FDA would not help if we are stuck with only a few companies making them in prescription form.

  3. Good riddens to Waxman and hopefully soon all the other career politicians.
    There should be term limits to congressional members….NOT lifetime positions for high paying (overpaid), public paid benefits that are too high and not to mention ‘vote yourself a raise’ (give me a break….who else in America gets to give themselves a raise…CEO’s?). Congressional elected officials are NOT CEO’s. They are elected officials that work for the people….NOT corporations and big business’. You would never know this by their actions and the money and benefits they make!
    Support term LIMITS for all members of congress and give America back to the people.

  4. I hope he burns in hell… I hate these evil people that think of the working class rich and poor as nothing but dust on the floor that needs to be swept up and thrown away like some scene from “Soylent Green” or real life situations in Columbia or elsewhere around the world. We are the ones that make this world go round

  5. Indeed, he is from my district. Let’s vote for Marianne Williamson to succeed him. She certainly does not have his experience with legislating, but she does understand what’s beneficial for consumers. If she only can avoid taking money from the wrong supporters…

  6. This is good but I’m sure someone else will get in to take his place. Unfortunately, one of supplements biggest supporters, Senator Coburn, is retiring because of cancer. Hopefully we will have a few more supporters come in.

  7. Eventually all the old gatekeeper club will retire or die off. Hope younger generations are more open minded to alternative health.

  8. Like a snake in the grass, this jerk needs to be watched. Just because he retired don’t mean much. Many of these misguided fools keep going by working for other organization’s connected to the government in some way.

  9. Health-related industries did contribute to Representative Waxman’s campaign but that is not in itself a condemnation. They give to virtually every incumbent because it buys access and because incumbents average 95% reelection. In many races they give to both candidates. Their payback easily covers both sets of contributions as well as a lobbyist fee.
    Do not accept that this is a battle between conventional medicine and alternative medicine. Pharmaceutical corporations own the largest supplement marketers and many of the raw-material manufacturers. Does anyone believe that ma and pa supplement companies are buying advertising slots and product placement on Dr. Oz?
    Just as no medicine helps everyone no supplement does either. Pharma does not want to kill supplements but must know which ones benefit a significant number of patients with specific conditions. Their successes become far more profitable as prescription drugs protected by use patents and as the starting point for synthetics. Khat became Wellbutrin and Icarin became Viagra.
    Does anyone believe that Pharma did not want to find a nutritional cure or preventative for AMD? Even though the benefit is marginal Bausch and Lomb makes millions from their AMD targeted supplement.
    Pharma has no motive to publicize their nutritional supplement failures because that cuts into their own supplement business. Rather there are a small number of true-believers in the medical community who parade each failure as a blanket condemnation of the entire industry. The press hypes each controversy as if it were their own ground-breaking discovery.
    Excessive claims by many in the supplement industry play right into the hands of the true-believers. Even with the best intentions the supplement industry is usually counterfeiting the definitive cure or preventative that will follow.
    Idres Shah, the Sufi mystic once said that “there would be no counterfeiters if there were no true gold.”

  10. You basically answered your own question when you stated; “We never knew why this powerful congressman was so hostile to dietary supplements, although he was supported by Big Pharma.”
    He probably took dietary supplements on a daily basis, and he also love the $upport of Big Pharma. A win, win for him, which is why many get into the political world to begin with.

  11. Forty years was way too long for Waxman to be in the House. Four years would have been plenty, and I live in Hollywood.

  12. I wish to give a big THANK YOU! to Natural Health Alliance and all who support their efforts. The educational facts presented are very valuable. I believe in “natural” health and know that without my vitamin supplements my health would be pretty bad.
    Thank you again Natural Health Alliance.

  13. I have changed my diet over the past 5 years to a more clean, unprocessed intake of fruits, vegetables, clean protein and supplements. At 55 years old and after having 4 children and owning a company with my husband in a service related field for 30 years, there are many supplements I take to fill in the gaps my whole food diet is missing and to combat the effects of aging and stress my body has endured. I have taken the time to research what I need as far a supplements go by reading websites such as natural health, Dr. Weil, Dr. Mercola and the like. I am very grateful to Alliance for Natural Healing’s newsletter and the opportunity for me to vote NO on the different legislations attempts to stop the public’s ability/access to educate themselves and purchase amazing products that actually heal!

    1. Unfortunately, many politicians are influenced by the drug companies. Financial gain means more to them than the health of the American people. That is why politicians such as Waxman and Durban are against safer alternatves to deadly drugs. They like the extra money.

  14. Why do you talk of Waxman’s “service?” Who has he served? Big Pharma. Big Phude. The fascist combine. Word choice matters. Please don’t use words that support the idea that these jackasses serve the public. They don’t.
    Did slavemasters “serve” their slaves?
    The man is gutter scum…vermin…the enemy. I completely disagree when you try to let him off the hook by saying the consequences of his actions were “unintended.” He’s a thug and a sociopath, doing what thugs and sociopaths do.
    He belongs in jail. Instead, he’ll get a fat pension and land at some statist organization that’s working to take away freedom.
    The good news is that he’ll never have the kind of influence inside the Congress again and the statist stooge that replaces him will have virtually no influence.
    Last thing. When people talk about a Congressman’s “effectiveness” as a legislator, you should cringe. That’s as welcome as a con man being good at conning, a thief being good at stealing, a liar at lying, and a killer at killing. We need more laws like a moose needs a hatrack. Their laws kills freedom of all sorts, including health freedom.

  15. Henry Waxman was a transparent mystery. You never knew which one you were going to get – the sensible and ethical one, or the one in the pocket of corporate medicine/pharma/insurance. As a neighbor to his constituency I changed my view over the years and stopped counting on him to be a functioning part of the democracy-geared buffer zone in congress, and instead watched him make more and more moves that would undermine public health and limit choice and hobble businesses producing clean products and concentrate power and money in corporations. Calling him “accomplished” leaves out 90% of what’s important in his story.
    But I don’t rejoice over his leaving because even a place like California, mistaken elsewhere for a uniform field of liberalism, is capable of voting even more harmful guys into office. It remains to be seen who takes Waxman’s seat. Meanwhile, he has lots of contacts in behind-the-scenes places where bad policy is dreamed up, and probably a very warm welcome there. Drug monopolies et al will not fail to recognize Waxman’s after-office utility. This is how it works.
    Many thanks to ANH-USA for giving the rundown on Waxman’s congressional behavior, and reminding us to keep careful watch, even on the guys supposedly wearing the white hats in Washington..

  16. Let’s hope Waxman begins to understand the power of supplements; as a politician he grew into getting and using power for himself, rather than for serving others, which is always tragic. If his age brings him enough wisdom, along with the health issues some of us already have, he may realize he has squandered an enormous opportunity to help his fellow citizens, while he was paid well to advance their health and improve their circumstances. Term limits are needed, along with better controls over political contributions and lobbyists.

  17. Durbin ‘is’ the new Waxman………..I hope who ever replaces Waxman doesn’t try and fit in his shoes. His constituents should let the candidates know that if they embrace ‘any’ of Waxman’s anti-supplement stance that they get no votes!

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