By Len Monheit
This weekend, I’m about to participate in Canada’s Natural Health Products Research Society’s annual conference entitled ‘From Concept to Consumer’.
It strikes me that while this title implies a continuum, or at least connectivity along the entire chain, the reality is that there are huge gaps in perception and communication that hinder the product development process and sometimes ensure that what is envisioned conceptually bears little resemblance to the end product, and also that the market opportunity (and yes the challenges) are inadequately communicated to stimulate the scientific development process. This disconnect happens on the corporate level, it arises in policy determination, and it occurs in cross-industry discussion.
This weekend’s event therefore, does represent a unique opportunity. The fact that the ideal ‘continuum’ from concept to consumer is being contemplated, under one banner, is laudable. The fact that the audience will certainly include leaders and visionaries from industry, as well as some of the most renowned faces from the cutting edges of science makes it a singular event – at least in North America. Included in the sessions is a panel discussion that will focus on the challenges being faced by all stakeholders – scientists, regulators, corporate leaders, trade associations and change directors, and I hope the discussions really do enable a raising of the baseline understanding of the obstacles that must be overcome in order to streamline the product development and launch cycle, and to effectively allow the people in the room to realize their potential impact on human health.
It’s one thing to hear about the wonders of a class of nutraceuticals as an industry insider, but if factors prevent companies from considering bringing products to market in a particular country, or if science is challenged by those who find it much easier to criticize good work that is being performed rather than generate some of it on their own, then all stakeholders must be aware and all working together if anything is going to change.
I’ve been contemplating the pace at which things change. The health claim process in the United States has, for most participants, been a frustrating experience. In Canada, although ‘things are now moving’, getting ‘Schedule A’ diseases and claims associated with them on the appropriate agenda, has been a long process. Various agencies see their primary mandate to be protecting consumers - from many real risks, but ironically, frequently, and most expensively, from themselves - rather than using tools (and our industry and expertise) to support and promote better health.
I hope that dialogue under one roof, like this weekend’s event, helps to change this. I hope that a focus on building a strong scientific infrastructure for many of our categories helps us all. I also hope that industry understands that without this category-driven scientific infrastructure, all of our efforts are fragmented and isolated and getting policy modified will be an almost insurmountable task. Hopefully too, industry recognizes the limited support resources available to the scientific community without industry engagement and is willing to be engaged.