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Congressman Wants More Regulations For Cosmetics

June 12, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ More effective and consistent regulation is needed to ensure the safety of cosmetics that do more than cleanse and beautify, a House subcommittee chairman said Monday.

Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the House Small Business subcommittee on regulation, said too many products that meet the definitions for both cosmetics and drugs slip through regulatory cracks in current law.

This group of ″cosmeceuticals″ - including anti-wrinkle and anti-aging creams, moisturizers, astringents and skin firmers - are regulated on the basis of marketing claims.

Wyden released a Congressional Research Service report that he said shows ″two products with exactly the same ingredients can fall under entirely different regulations based on the fancy wording of smart advertisers.″

Current law defines a cosmetic as something that is used to clean and beautify. A drug, under the law, is something used to diagnose, cure, treat, prevent disease or alter the structure or function of the body.

While drugs must undergo safety and effectiveness testing before they can be marketed, cosmetics ″are the least regulated articles under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act,″ the report said.

In deciding whether a product is a cosmetic or a drug, the FDA looks at ″intended use,″ as reflected in the manufacturer’s claims for the product, the report said.

For example, a skin lotion that claims to physiologically get rid of wrinkles is classified as a drug and must be safety tested. However, if the same lotion claimed only to beautify the skin, it would be considered a cosmetic and free of regulation. If it claims to be a sun screen, it is a drug.

Wyden said the ambiguity in the current law, which dates to 1938, needs to be corrected to ensure that all cosmetics are safe.

The report offered several legislative options to clarify the classification of drugs and cosmetics.

Wyden will use it to help draft legislation providing for minimal regulation of the $18 billion a year cosmetics industry. Provisions are expected to include registration of manufacturers and requirements that they submit injury and testing reports to the Food and Drug Administration, a spokeswoman for the congressman said.

FDA officials were reviewing the report.

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