Sunday, June 12, 2011

Does there always have to be an opposing reaction?

 I was at a Wellness Conference and Expo this weekend in Chicago.  Teraswhey had a booth there.  So did many other vendors for things like vitamins, nutritional supplements, aromatherapy products, infrared saunas, practioners of various kinds, all alternatives to our mainstream medical system.  A medical system run amuck, everyone agrees. But since no one agrees what should be in its place, we continue to press on with total dysfunction.

At a conference for supplement industry leaders a few years ago, old lion’s of the industry were calling for greater self-regulation of the industry.  They acknowledged the disservice that middle of the night ads for miracle cures was doing for the industry and called for industry leaders to self police.  What wasn’t clear at the time was what self-policing would actually look like or how it would happen.  Would the Presidents of pharmaceutical grade vitamin companies call up the Presidents of mediocre quality miracle vitamin companies and tell them to clean up their act or get out?  Would that call actually change anything?  And if it didn’t, what recourse would the legitimate company have?

Miracle cures and the people who sell them that have been around since the beginning of time. Here we are, two years after the call for self-regulation and it is nowhere in sight.  The same infomercials run in the middle of the night, the industry still proffers strange products with weird claims and sketchy science behind them.  Things like whole body vibrators, miracle bands, and portable saunas that are essentially microwave ovens for people. How can we tell what is going to work and what isn't?

Maybe both the problem and the answer to it were at the show. One path would be to bring more stringent regulation to the entire industry.  Forcing supplements to undergo the same testing that pharmaceutical products go through would certainly kill the industry.  It would be an equal and opposite reaction to infomercials at 3 AM. 

There was an alternative path at the show.  People bought samples of our product, took them home to try them, and surfed the internet to read up on them and see what other people are saying about them on the internet - a kind of crowd QA.  As a result of their research, the last day of the show I had people returning to buy large quantities of product from me. I sold out by noon.

I used to think that consumer’s couldn’t be educated enough to judge the medical efficacy of medicinal products; now I think that there are so many readily available resources that it is possible for people to research products and make choices based on their research.  Maybe instead of regulation, we should spend the enforcement funds providing basic medical education to consumers so they can make good choices about products like supplements and wellness devices.

Not as full of drama as an opposing reaction of comparable force, but an effective path forward all the same.