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Just what the doctor ordered: Practitioners driving supplement growth

Dietary supplements may become more popular than apple a day advice, especially now that more and more physicians are selling supplements directly to their patients. At the Council for Responsible Nutrition Annual Symposium for Dietary Supplements, two speakers reiterated a growing trend in supplement sales—the practitioner supplement market. Patrick Rhea, editor and publisher of Nutrition Business Journal, a sister publication to Functional Ingredients, said the practitioner sales of supplements has reached $2 billion and represents one of the fastest growing sectors of the industry.

Rhea’s statement was followed by Kyle Bliffert, CEO of Pure Encapsulations, who said that the reason for the growth is multi-faceted, but the primary force is consumer demand. Consumers are asking their physicians for recommendations about supplements, Bliffert said, couple this with the ever increasing cost of drugs and this trend looks even more promising. Bliffert compared the cost of prescription fish oil to make his point. For instance, a 3g EPA/DHA capsule for a prescription brand of fish oil costs the insurer $250 and perhaps a $50 consumer co-pay, but at a retail store a fish oil capsule with the same EPA/DHA dosage costs about $40.

Bliffert outlined a list of reasons physicians are adopting a supplement sales model for their practices:

  1. Consumer interest in prevention
  2. Internet access to supplements
  3. Anti-aging demographic
  4. Green movement
  5. Practitioners can supplement their income with supplements
  6. Increased emphasis on GMPs from FDA, which is legitimizing the industry
  7. Insurance companies are increasingly allowing supplements on reimbursement schedules
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