Vitamin D Toxicity and the Courts

I find it extremely interesting this past week when Gary Null, a health guru, filed suit over an extreme amount of vitamin D in one of his supplements.  It seems that what should have been 2,000 IU of D3 turn out to be 2,000,000 IU of D3.  It is interesting that the courts would even consider this lawsuit.  There is such a tiny amount of difference how could the manufacturer be held accountable.  The numbers look large and your body sees them as large but it is still a very small difference.  We are talking about the difference in 50 micrograms versus 50 milligrams.  Have you ever tried to measure 50 micrograms of material?  Here is the article in the LA Times.

Vitamin D has a long history in the courts going all the way back to the height of WWII when manufacturers of over-the-counter vitamin D to prevent rickets were putting such a small amount in the tablets that it would not prevent rickets.  The combined lawsuits were settled when the intellectual property rights of D3 became public domain.  Here the lawsuit was about not getting enough.

Lawsuits like this continued into the 21st century when the FTC and FDA tried to get the ‘shady’ marketing practices of sunscreen products changed in 2000.  It turns out that John Roberts, present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, lead a group of lawyers that was hired by the sunscreen lobby.  This lobby group successfully defeated the lawsuit.  Today you can buy sunscreen with no warning label at all.  Where is the warning label that says: This product will block the production of one of the most important hormone precursors of the human body, vitamin D3.  Not only does the deficiency cause osteoporosis, it is also significant in the course of all chronic disease including the big three killers, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

If we consider the lawsuits, we see that they are not the same.  One is for two much of a substance that acts to create toxicity and the other is for a deficiency of the substance which causes a significant disease rates.  We have historically held institutions that were responsible for putting toxic substances into our bodies accountable like the tobacco or asbestos industries.  However, when institutions choose to ignore the benefits of a substance, they seem to skate by scot-free.  This ignorance of (ignoring of) vitamin D typically causes about 1,000,000 deaths in the US every year to say nothing about the suffering.  Now is the time and it will take government to act.

Let’s consider another institution that seems to be in the news for some apparent wrong doings.  That is Goldman Sachs.  It seems this market maker puts parties together that are on both sides of a financial vehicle. They know that one side is in significant risk of losing.  Does Goldman have a responsibility to inform the party of the significance of the risk?  The players at this level are considered to be ‘sophisticated’ investors which means that they fully understand the risk and are willing to play with the ‘big boys’.   Gary Null was also a sophisticated health professional.  How is that different?

So what are we supposed to do about institutions in the health care industry that are simply ‘market makers’?  That is they choose to ignore information that they know would be beneficial to society so as to protect their presumed market rights and the opportunity for intellectual property benefits.  This would include manufacturers of sunscreen and researchers that stand to benefit significantly by a large ‘sick market’.  That is everyone in the healthcare industry including and especially insurance providers.  This is such a large group and the lobby so powerful that the possibility of legal action in our lifetime is small.

The best thing that could happen at this point is for A. Cathrine Ross, Chairman of the FNB for Vitamin D and Calcium, make such a statement in the release of their forth coming report that the president of the US and prime minister of Canada will be forced to declare a national emergency.  The rest of the countries of the world will follow suit.  And you Chief Justice Roberts, what will you allowed to be heard in the Supreme Court?

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