Monday, July 9, 2007

Sunshine, Laws and the Pharmaceutical Companies

"Sunshine laws and the pharmaceutical companies," JAMA 2007;297:1255

"For-profit industries do not share the same ethical norms to which physicians and other health care professionals must adhere. Their primary commitment is to create shareholder value, not maintaining an altruistic commitment to patients. But at some point the leadership of the pharmaceutical industry and their board of directors must begin to recognize that growing public and professional mistrust could substantially detract from their value."

You probably think I am going to slam Big Pharma. No, they are doing fine bringing bad press upon themselves. They don't need my help. I wanted you to see this article, because I feel the nutraceutical industry would do well to adhere to the same standards that doctors are beginning to ask of Big Pharma. What is good for the goose, is good for the gander.

Soon, we will see more and more pressure on the supplement industry. "Codex alimentarius" is a set of regulations that are coming from across the Pond to make it very hard for regular folks to get supplements, unless they are of pahrmaceutical grade. Many feel the real motivation is to bring supplements under Big Pharma's umbrella. But, this is not the main reason to motivate nutraceuticals to be as scientific and safe as possible. The best reason, in my opinion, is outlined in that article above: "maintaining an altruistic commitment to patients.

"Nutraceuticals often indulge in doctor bashing, and condemn the pharmaceutical approach across the board. While they often speak from having been hurt, and they may have a point, sometimes the attacks are driven by financial motivation. I don't begrudge anyone the need to make money. But, I feel a whole lot of these ego-driven attitudes could take second place to the wellbeing of the patient.

Nutraceuticals have done an excellent job adopting the same marketing techniques that corporate America, and Big Pharma have perfected. No problem there. But, for nutraceuticals to continue to demonize Big Pharma, while also putting profits first, is not going to end well with the natural products industry. Just watch what is happening to Big Pharma.

Often, I am asked to speak for Nutraceutical companies. Some of them give me the feedback that I don't discuss "the solutions" (their products) very well. I wonder if they went out for sandwiches when I covered the part where I say that 90% of health problems go away when people quit eating processed, refined sugars and transfats, to which most people are addicted, including the people running those nutraceuticals. I do mention their products, which are very helpful, IF one quits eating kilograms of garbage. How could a product of mere milligrams compete with kilograms of junk food?

It is not fair for their great products to compete in such an overwhelmingly uneven field. In fact, I often tell those companies that they will sell more, if they simply adopt this very basic principle, because people will trully be healed, by changing their diets first, and supplementing their products second. Then, clients will be more likely to come back, and continue to supplement, because they will trust the person advising to take those supplements. They will see in that person someone who is trully committed to helping them, not just another "pill-pusher."

If one is more motivated by sales, then, a quick sale of a product may indeed be achieved. But, the patient will not heal in the long run, and very likely will be disappointed in the product. They may never come back, and what is worse, that person may lose faith in the concept of supplementing, and call it "quackery." Sad, but this could be avoided, if nutraceuticals would focus on doing what is best for the patient, instead of sales. Again, it is not fair to pit their products against the tsunami of sugar -addiction in our country.

What is good for the goose, is good for the gander. Any doctor selling ANYTHING, whether it be a drug, or a nutritional supplement, without first emphasizing a thorough change in diet, is running the risk of putting sales ahead of the patients' best interest. Now, if the patient refuses to change their lifestyle, and just want to pop a pill, then, I feel that could be dully noted in their chart, to remind the patient of their decision, when they come back, not having healed.

Fortunately, there are two nutraceutical companies who ask me to speak on a regular basis, who have understood these vital concepts, and their businesses are driven by social responsibility first, and profits second. Not surprisingly, their sales are doing very well. I salute them, and predcit that they will be left standing at the end, for having done the right thing."