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Memory Supplements – Clarifying FDA and FTC Roles Could Strengthen Oversight and Enhance Consumer Awareness

Memory Supplements: Clarifying FDA and FTC Roles Could Strengthen Oversight and Enhance Consumer Awareness, GAO-17-416: Published: May 16, 2017. Publicly Released: Jun 15, 2017.

“Memory supplements—dietary supplements claiming to improve memory—are a growing market, with sales estimated at $643 million in 2015, almost double 2006 sales. FDA and FTC share oversight of memory supplement marketing—labeling and advertising claims—but generally do not approve claims before products are marketed. GAO was asked to review memory supplement marketing and oversight. This report examines (1) how memory supplements are marketed and the extent marketing targets older adults and may violate federal requirements; (2) related enforcement and outreach actions taken by FDA and FTC; and (3) challenges to agency oversight. GAO reviewed five types of media (Internet, television, among others) to identify examples of memory supplement marketing practices and potential violations of federal requirements. GAO selected these channels using demographic and survey data relevant to older adults. GAO analyzed FDA and FTC data on enforcement actions for fiscal years 2006 through 2015—the most recent data available. GAO also reviewed relevant agency oversight policies, interviewed agency officials, and interviewed selected consumer and industry groups…GAO recommends that FDA and FTC provide additional guidance to consumers clarifying the agencies’ differing roles in their shared oversight of memory supplement and other dietary supplement marketing on the Internet. The two agencies concurred with GAO’s recommendation.”

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