HEALTH

Survey shows lack of consumer confidence in FDA

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. Consumers expressed their lack of confidence in the ability of the Food and Drug Administration to effectively do its job ensuring the safety of food and drug products, according to a survey published by Harris Interactive Tuesday.

More than half of consumers (60 percent) questioned the FDA’s ability to bring new drugs to market expediently. Conversely, 53 percent of consumers charged the FDA’s effectiveness in managing recalls or withdrawals.

“Recent analyses suggest that approving drugs more quickly could save lives, and along those lines the FDA has shortened its process from 33 months in 1991 to only 19 months in 2001,” stated Rick Millard, Harris Interactive group president. “While last-minute approvals are becoming more common, studies indicate drugs approved near the FDA’s deadline are more likely to have severe safety problems. Ultimately, the FDA does not win.”

The perception that the FDA does a good job ensuring the safety and efficacy of new prescription drugs has declined to 35 percent from 45 percent in 2007 and 56 percent in 2004, even though 61 percent of the general population considers ensuring safety and efficacy to be the most important task for the FDA.

Further, only 26 percent think the FDA does a good job ensuring the safety of prescription drugs that are manufactured outside the U.S., in part fueled by the contaminated heparin controversy that was sourced from China. Indeed, adults are still concerned about the series of China-imported toy recalls over the past year—confidence in the safety of toys manufactured outside the U.S. dropped dramatically from 44 percent in 2007 to 22 percent in 2008.

Harris Interactive conducted the online survey of 2,476 U.S. adults between April 1 and 4 for the Wall Street Journal Online’s Health Industry Edition.

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HEALTH

Supplements gain ground in medical community

BY Michael Johnsen

MINNEAPOLIS Nutritional supplements are gaining ground in the traditional medical community, according to an April report in the Chronicle, published by the investment banking firm of The Mercanti Group.

According to the report, consumers are increasingly moving toward alternative solutions to general wellness issues, spurred by high healthcare costs, quality of care issues and distrust of pharmaceuticals, among other reasons. In addition, supplements are gaining scientific credibility, thanks to Food and Drug Administration insistence on product quality and testing procedures, and increasing research by such federal agencies as the National Institute of Health.

“As consumers have become more interested in health and overall wellness, the market for products and services that provide a holistic approach has greatly increased,” stated author Eric Groman, a principal in Mercanti’s Los Angeles office. “Given that healthcare professionals tend to be more sensitive to product efficacy and the purity of ingredients, practitioner lines are generally characterized by high quality, and have more of a scientific foundation.”

Groman also noted that growth of nutritional supplements is much sharper in the practitioner setting  compared with retail. “In this way, practitioner products generally address the quality concerns that have become increasingly important as consumers look to supplements as a way to remedy or alleviate real health problems.”

The report characterizes the $1.7 billion practitioner market as fairly fragmented and crowded. It identifies two of the leading players in the business as Metagenics, a 25-year-old company that has been a pioneer in the field of nutrigenomics, with products aimed at affecting genetic expression and that help prevent or manage chronic diseases; and Standard Process, an 80-year old company offering a full line of whole food and herbal supplements, as well as veterinary items.

Others active in the field that the report discusses are Allergy Research Group, Atrium Innovations, Designs for Health, Integrative Therapeutics, Seroyal International and Thome Research.

“The market is certainly ripe for future growth,” Groman said. “As quality and efficacy continue to be high on the list of consumer demand, and as supplements continue to gain credibility in traditional medical circles, practitioners will have a deepening impact and influence of broader activity in the market for alternative healthcare products.”

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Survey prompts Westchester N.Y. to ponder dextromethorphan restrictions

BY Michael Johnsen

WESTCHESTER , N.Y. A report published Monday stated that between 5 percent and 9 percent of 3,241 middle-schoolers have admitted consuming the cough ingredient dextromethorphan to get high, citing a Student Assistant Services study.

Westchester County is currently considering placing age restrictions on the sale of dextromethorphan, following the lead of Suffolk and Nassau counties—the two counties that make up Long Island.

The paper reported that as many as 10 adolescents have been treated at local hospitals for abusing cough medicine so far this year, according to the Long Island and Westchester Regional Poison and Drug Information Center.

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