I ask you, the reader of Nutraceuticals World, how do you view a sale? Do you put certain products or classes of products on sale at certain times of the year? If so, how is the sale price of the product determined? Do you utilize market research or simply look at which product(s) you have perhaps too much of in the stock warehouse(s)?
Have you ever found that something marked as “on sale” or now sold at “X percent” discount prompted you to purchase the product? Do you have a cynical side that knows what typical markups are and thus look at a sale price and wonder, “Where is this discount being made up?” Do you believe a company could simply offer a lower price for a sale of goods with no overt or hidden catch?
Sometimes a product is on sale as a loss leader in order to hopefully incentivize the customer to buy, or purchase more than the product that is just on sale. For some, this is part of their good business practices and is internally accounted for as part of the marketing budget. However, is a sale always a sale? Do you truly get what you are paying for?
Recently, I came across a website ad promoting a discounted service that left me wondering, is this type of sale a good thing? In other words, does a discount on certain services mean that the quality of what you get might be subpar? Would you want to pay full price for the best heart surgeon or the one who did the surgery for 20% off?
An industry company that claims to specialize in 30- to 90-day studies, recently sent an eBlast offering a 20% discount on its services if you sign a contract with them within the month. This research firm notes that FDA is “cracking down on dietary supplement companies and enforcing all of its rules.” The ad further states that “one of the most important rules is that no marketing statements or claims can be made on any product for human use if there has not been a clinical study to prove those claims as well as product safety and effectiveness.”
As a scientist, a researcher and a consumer, I read the above and had many concerns. First and foremost, should any company offer a sale on services geared toward accumulating evidence to support the safety and efficacy of products to attract potential customers? Second, I questioned this “research company” when it said FDA regulates marketing and “truthfulness” in marketing statements. Actually, FTC regulates marketing and claims, while FDA regulates product safety and labels. Occasionally they work together. How can you trust a company that doesn’t even know what these agencies do? If a company is marketing discounted services and asking you to rely upon them for product substantiation for efficacy (effectiveness), wouldn’t you want that company to understand which office within the government regulates the products of the industry and how the regulatory responsibilities are divvied up? In other words, would you want to buy a car from a manufacturer who only knew how to make the gas pedal work on the car but not the brakes?
In vetting out what the impact of a sale price is, it is well worth asking the company offering the sale (in this case, clinical research services) for referrals of past clients, past published clinical trials, and any validation of how they put together their sales pitch. At the end of the day, you want your research to withstand government scrutiny, as well as peer review. Due diligence matters, and sometimes a sale on certain services could cost you more in the long run
References furnished upon request
Douglas Kalman, PhD, MS, RD, FACN, is director of clinical nutrition at Miami Research Associates (MRA), Miami, FL, in the Nutrition and Endocrinology Division. MRA is a clinical service organization involved for over 10 years in phase II through post market trials for the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. Mr. Kalman is also an active member of the American College of Sports Medicine, American College of Nutrition, the American Dietetic Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the Association of Clinical Research Professionals. He is also the executive vice president and treasurer of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). He can be reached at 305-666-2368; Fax: 305-669-8966; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.miamiresearch.com.