GLOBAL FREEDOM FIGHTERS
Around the world, wherever drugs are regulated, governments provide drug companies a monopoly on the right to communicate therapeutic information. Indeed, wherever drugs are regulated governments define them not by their biochemistry and effect on disease but by the claims made for them. Any claim that a substance treats, mitigates, or cures disease makes it a drug by legal definition. Thus, anything, even a food or a dietary ingredient in food, if truthfully advertised or labeled as affecting a disease, becomes an unapproved drug by operation of law and illegal to hold, distribute, or sell. Declare in the market that prune juice treats chronic constipation, albeit we all know that to be true, and off you go in cuffs to the hoosegow for a violation of anti-competitive laws that keep drug companies exclusive purveyors of treatment information.
There are thousands of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles identifying links between elements in foods and disease that zealous government regulators keep from the public to guard drug company turf. So the public is denied, inter alia, vital information at the point of sale concerning the potential of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the incidence of sudden death heart attack; glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to prevent and halt the progression of osteoarthritis; SAMe to help mitigate mild depression; and Vitamin D to reduce the risk of cancer and osteoporosis, to name just a few.
A relatively small number of people oppose the restrictions and are indispensable in the fight for freedom of informed choice. One leading group is Alliance for Natural Health. ANH spans the globe endeavoring to ensure that consumers and patients have the freedom to know of, and choose, healthcare modalities that involve non-toxic treatments and preventive care. ANH has an international division based in the United Kingdom and focused heavily on the pressing challenges posed by European regulators, as well as a U.S. division, based in Washington, D.C. Each division defends specific safe and effective non-traditional treatments for disease and fights government restrictions on access to safe dietary ingredients and to truthful information about them.
I recently had the privilege of representing ANH-USA, Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, and the Coalition to End FDA and FTC Censorship in a successful challenge to FDA censorship of several selenium-cancer risk reduction claims. That landmark decision, ANH v. Sebelius, reversed the latest efforts by FDA to gut the First Amendment of any meaning in the area of nutrient-disease communication. FDA has consistently endeavored to replace protection for truthful nutrient-disease information with censorship.
As with all organizations in the world of law and politics, success hinges on the talents, integrity, and intelligence of organization leaders. To be effective, they must accurately perceive precisely how limited resources can be expended in ways that maximize impact and bring about needed reform. Many groups are simply sycophants for industry, puppets if you will, who aim to induce regulators to adopt anti-competitive barriers that benefit those members who finance them (most often industry leaders). We discern the integrity of organizations by their works. Having watched ANH operate for years now, and having the privilege of interacting with its principals and supporters, I am convinced of their integrity and of their commitment to individual liberty. The group is no patsy for industry but a stalwart defender of individual rights to alternatives in health care and to health information.
I greatly admire those in charge of this organization. It is run and supported by sincere advocates of freedom. They are working diligently to increase individual sovereignty at the expense of regulators who endeavor to replace that sovereignty with paternalistic government controls. They have taken on governments to bring down barriers to accessing products and information at considerable expense. They are noble warriors engaged in an honorable campaign. Allow me to introduce them.
Dr. Robert Verkerk is ANH’s International Executive and Scientific Director. Dr. Verkerk is an accomplished scientist by education and experience. He has a Bachelor of Science with Honors from the University of Westminster, London; a Master of Science (with Distinction) from Imperial College, London; and a Doctor of Philosophy from Imperial College, London. His scientific education in nutrition, agriculture, and the environment enables him to lay bare government regulations predicated on false suppositions about risk and to reveal the irrationality of regulatory schemes driven by anti-competitive motives. Repeatedly he exposes how state paternalism denies consumers access to health enhancing and life extending substances. He shows how government restrictions on dose levels that are scientifically demonstrated to be safe and effective in reducing the risk of, or alleviating, disease are robbing individuals of control over their biological destinies. Repeatedly he exposes how regulators manipulate standards to cause products consumed safely for decades to be redefined as unsafe and removed from the market.
In 2002, Dr. Verkerk founded the Alliance for Natural Health International, a pan European and international private non-profit organization that promotes wellness and healing through non-toxic modalities, including strategic use of dietary supplements at dose levels demonstrated to produce beneficial physiological effects. In 2003-2004, Verkerk and ANH boldly challenged the European Union’s Food Supplements Directive in the High Court of London, which referred the matter to the European Court of Justice. While the ECJ did not agree with the ECJ’s Advocate General, who stated—consistent with ANH’s position--that the EU Directive should be eliminated, it did yield ANH a strategic victory by forbidding the European Food Safety Authority from banning supplements except upon a full risk assessment and did rule any such ban open to challenge in the ECJ. The court ruled: “An application to have a substance included on a list may be refused only on the basis of a full risk assessment, established on the basis of the most reliable scientific data available and the most recent results of international research. A refusal must be open to challenge before the courts.”
Verkerk and ANH are now instrumental in the fight to stop EFSA use of the precautionary principle as a vehicle for risk assessment. Under that principle, if a dietary supplement presents a risk of illness or injury at some dose level (a truism for all things we consume, including water), then the substance is presumptively illegal unless industry can prove with near conclusive scientific evidence that the substance produces no risk at some dose level. It may then be sold only at the safe dose level and below. The problem with this approach, as Verkerk brilliantly explains, is that EFSA equates any meaningful biological activity in the body to risk of harm, leading ineluctably to limits on over-the-counter sales to levels at which there is no meaningful biological activity (i.e., at useless levels).
Verkerk and ANH have positioned themselves to attack an imminent European Union ban on most, if not all, medicinal herbs. As with all ANH moves, each step Verkerk takes is calculated carefully to maximize success. While the battle in Europe for freedom of informed choice is monumental, Verkerk and ANH are courageously waging it in an unrelenting fashion. The passion that drives Verkerk is evident to all who meet him. He is a sage who brandishes an inviting smile and grand sense of humor. His ready wit pierces to the heart of complex issues yet his affable nature makes him amenable to modifying his approach to address ever new obstacles. It is that intelligence, affability, and sense of occasion and opportunity that make Verkerk freedom’s indispensable man in Europe. Above all, Verkerk has integrity. His actions match his principles, leaving no light in between.
Verkerk has been aided mightily by the group’s Executive Coordinator Meleni Aldridge. Having trained in health and body work in South Africa, Aldridge practiced complementary and holistic medicine for fifteen years. She harbors a deep and abiding appreciation for innovation in medicine and aims to bring down barriers to safe and effective care of patients. She honed her communication skills through eleven years of teaching experience, serving as a Senior Lecturer at a United Kingdom university. She excels in written and verbal persuasive writing and can translate complex medical and scientific issues into language accessible to lay people. She has served as Verkerk’s able and tireless right arm for many years.
In the United States, Verkerk’s alter ego comes in the form of another affable, highly intelligent, and sensible individual, ANH-USA Advocacy Coordinator Gretchen DuBeau. DuBeau is an attorney by training and experience. She has a strong analytical mind and understanding of human nature. Repeatedly she has correctly predicted legislative action by assessing the interests of particular members and how that interest translates into specific content. Parsing the content of bills on a regular basis, she not only rapidly grasps their meaning but also appreciates their logical consequences, stating both accurately and intelligibly to ANH’s membership. She has orchestrated successful campaigns to block particularly nasty pieces of legislation, including John McCain’s ill-fated attempt to legislate dietary supplements into drug status. Throughout her life she has studied, and personally practiced, natural healing. She has a long history of involvement in public policy as it relates to natural substances. She is well-respected for her understanding of regulatory law, politics, and science, particularly as it affects access to integrative medicine, dietary supplements, and related health information. She is a highly moral and honest person, passionately committed to freedom of informed choice. Like Verkerk, she has impeccable integrity.
The fourth person in ANH’s central command is its President, Hunter Lewis. Lewis has enabled ANH to make a real difference in the struggle for freedom worldwide, because he is a savvy, shrewd, highly intelligent, and accomplished person unafraid to take on government when it sacrifices individual liberty. A Groton School and Harvard grad, Lewis served in key investment management positions because of his mastery of, and love for, market economics. Working for Boston Company first as assistant to the President and then as Vice-President, Lewis honed his investment skills, succeeding so masterfully that he was able to form in 1975 Cambridge Associates LLC, a highly successful investment and financial advice firm that came to represent a whopping, over three-quarters of all U.S. higher education endowment assets, foundations, cultural organizations, international organizations, and other non-profit institutions as well as families.
Lewis pioneered in the field of institutional investing with funds that yielded high returns for his institutional investors. His approach to investment has become a model emulated worldwide. Having left a highly successful career in managed investing, Lewis could have reaped what he sewed and retired in luxury, but he is not the retiring sort, particularly when the government knows no bounds to its expansion into the private sector he so loves.
Rather than reap a personal harvest, Lewis chose to dedicate his resources to the fight for freedom of informed choice. He has a deep and abiding conviction that government intervention into the market carries with it consequences that violate economic and civil liberties and retard economic development. His recent book Where Keynes Went Wrong attacks world governments for massive spending to alleviate the recession. Lewis well argues that such spending only exacerbates the financial crisis and is a dead-end expenditure, incapable of sustaining private economic growth. Lewis identifies the theoretical underpinnings for the notion that governments can spend markets into recovery in John Maynard Keynes’ General Theory. Taking each of Keynes’ arguments for deficit spending apart, Lewis establishes, beyond peradventure of doubt, that government debt exacerbates market burdens prolonging economic hardship, not revitalizing the economy. In this he specifically attacks the Obama administration for misguided policy. In all, he is a champion of the free market.
As with Verkerk, Aldridge, and DuBeau, Lewis loathes paternalistic government that operates on the premise that those in political power know better than the individual what is in that individual’s best interest. He is motivated by a love of human freedom and has a deeply rooted desire to see people liberated from government constraints so they may pursue their own dreams of industry and improvement and may reap market rewards for clearly identifying and fulfilling needs. He has invested enormously in the quest to liberate health care markets from oppressive regulation, seeking to help each person to enjoy access to treatment modalities each prefers, to have access to dietary supplements each prefers, and to enjoy the liberty to receive health information and act on that information as each sees fit. Despite his extraordinary accomplishments in the market and his indispensable support for freedom of informed choice, he is a humble and unassuming man.
A product of the mid-west, he follows a simple code. He is honest. He has no hidden agenda. He has great integrity. I too grew up in the mid-west and find those traits common among many mid-westerners. He knows well that there is no substitute for integrity. It his honesty and integrity combined with a God-given gift of intellect that caused major industry to trust him to invest their most precious assets. His actions transparently reflect his desires and those actions speak volumes about his commitment to human freedom. He has supported every move by ANH to knock down government restrictions on health enhancing products and information about them. His work on Keynes, in particular, reveals that he is an intellect whose commitment to freedom is not superficial or transient but well thought out, deep-rooted, and lasting.
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This team of Verkerk, Aldridge, DuBeau, and Lewis has already accomplished much but holds out great promise for future success. They are committed to individual liberty and have the intellectual ammunition necessary to achieve much in restoring freedoms taken from us. I salute them and am grateful for their courageous struggle on our behalf.
© 2010 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved