The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By Rebecca Wright | October 1, 2008

One industry's loss is another industry's gain, at least that's usually the case when it comes to pharma vs. nutraceuticals. When big, bad pharma takes it on the chin, nutraceutical companies are usually waiting in the wings to say, "I told you so," and welcome consumers to their side.

The writing has been on the wall for years when it comes to the many downsides of pharmaceuticals-from horrible side effects (including death), to the U.S. market's utter dependence on them (thanks to genius pharmaceutical marketers convincing consumers that in choosing "health" they must choose drugs). For those keeping track, a study in the July 28th edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that the percentage of deaths resulting from the misuse of pharmaceutical drugs rose over 3000% between 1983 and 2004. Moreover, the expense of bringing a drug to market has become so prohibitive these days that only the "ber" wealthy companies have the slimmest chance of success. Drug pipelines are drying up, patents are expiring and FDA is cracking down.

During recessions, when most companies struggle, the "health" business actually prospers. This is because consumers tend to tighten their belts when it comes to food and clothes, but not when it comes to their drugs. Unfortunately, consumers also forego dietary supplements and functional foods-they're considered "luxury" items as opposed to necessities. But in the words of Bob Dylan, "times they are a changin'."

Drug makers are being forced to cut back too, according to Brandweek magazine. For the first time ever, this year's pharmaceutical marketing budgets are basically flat and some experts are predicting a decline during the next several years. It appears the pharmaceutical industry's stronghold on "health" is finally loosening.

Now let's talk about "the ugly"-the economy. The financial freefall the markets experienced in September was scary for a lot of people. What I learned is that when you treat the market like a casino, eventually the house (government) wins. During the last several years, the financial industry became a veritable Wild West-wooing consumers who had no money and terrible credit histories into buying things (mostly houses) they just couldn't afford. One financial analyst said he blames consumers for being uneducated about the bad loans they entered into, that it is consumers who should recognize when something is too good to be true. Sound familiar?

It wasn't long ago that this industry too was referred to as the Wild West-some still call it that today. The perception being that companies can make all the claims they want without having to provide substantiation or be held accountable for their fraudulent behavior. Regulations for this industry have been on the books for years. It's just that no one had been manning the controls. In the meantime, many companies laughed their way to the bank. Well, not anymore. In the case of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals (page 14), it seems the house has won, big time. Who's laughing now?

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