- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2002

David Roll doesn't work with prescription or medicinal drugs. But his new position at the U.S. Pharmacopeia Conventions Inc. in Rockville brings him in contact with a variety of botanical, vitamin and mineral supplements.
"I've been fascinated about dietary supplements since I was a professor. My students wanted me to advise them on issues involving vitamins and minerals, and I had to broaden my research," said the former pharmacist and professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Utah.
Now, as the executive director of dietary supplements at U.S. Pharmacopeia, Mr. Roll said his audience has changed, but the information and research is similar. "I wasn't looking for another job, but I saw this as a chance of educating a different group on the potential value of taking supplements and also the potential harm that comes from abusing them."
Mr. Roll, 62, comes to U.S. Pharmacopeia after serving as a congressional fellow in the office of Sen. Byron Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, for a year, a side interest during his then-retirement.
At U.S. Pharmacopeia, Mr. Roll said he will help update the standards the government organization establishes for pharmaceutical companies.
"A person often can't tell if the Vitamin E pill they take every morning is doing them any good," he said. "What I get to do is help study those pills and then approve ones that work and dissolve completely in the blood system so that I can ensure consumers the quality of the supplements they're taking."
Mr. Roll also looks for possible pesticides and toxins inside botanical supplements such as ginseng and milk thistle powder that are about to be released in the market. "What I'm looking for is a good consistency in the botanical, and that it isn't full of harmful toxins or contaminated with other drugs."
The transition from semi-retirement to a full-time employee has been easy, Mr. Roll said. "I worked on the USP's Council of Experts for 12 years before coming here, so I was kind of prepped for my role."
Srini Srinivasan, vice president of the company's supplement-verification program that works with Mr. Roll in establishing supplement standards, said Mr. Roll's experience with supplements and their evolution in the past 20 years made him a viable candidate for the job.
"David has a thorough background in supplements, and he's seen the issues with them change in the last 15 years or so," Mr. Srinivasan said. "It's nice to work with someone who knows the ins and outs of botanical herbs or vitamins in my position. I know I can get an honest assessment on a supplement from him."
The most fascinating part of his job is tracking the dissolution of supplements, Mr. Roll said. "I saw this X-ray of a woman at this supplement convention a few years back, and it was amazing to see all the different pills in her digestive system that hadn't passed through or been absorbed," he said. "It reminded me of swallowing chewing gum, and I saw how important it is to know how well a vitamin or botanic dissolves in our systems."
Mr. Roll resides in Rockville.

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