Editorial: A Little Bit Of Ginseng

By Len Monheit

Maybe you heard about it on the news – the coverage was actually quite extensive.

A new study showed that ginseng was effective for prevention and relief of colds. Well, actually what the study showed was a bit different, but much of the story seemed to be completely lost on the mainstream media – not too much of a surprise. Also not surprisingly, companies not even involved in the research are seeking to take advantage of the study result.

Headlines around the world noted the research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which described the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled study using a proprietary product, COLD-fX®, on the prevention and relief of upper respiratory infections in a general population with a history of at least two upper respiratory infections in the previous year. The study concluded, based on subjects’ self-assessment of their respiratory-related symptoms on a 4-point scale, that the product appeared to be a natural prophylactic treatment for upper respiratory tract infections. (CV Technoligies Study Results release)

These results follow and support other trials on the product involving elderly patients at nursing homes, showing a significant reduction in clinical illness caused by influenza and cold viral infection after use.

So, this is good news right? Actually, there is both a yes and a no side to this.

With very few exceptions, the news outlets picked up on the fact that the product used in the study was ginseng-based. Unfortunately, that’s about all that they picked up. The fact that COLD fX® happens to be a specially prepared and standardized ginseng extract that is essentially not the equivalent of other ginseng products on the market seemed to be largely ignored. The fact that this product had other clinical trials associated specifically with it also was largely ignored.

The good

Certainly the ginseng category gets a boost, and after several neutral to negative results in the past few years for herbal products in general, its reassuring to see an herbal product gain some credibility. Presumably, the result also impacts CV Technologies and their COLD fX® product specifically, despite the fact that as a company, they are essentially focusing on brand building for their finished product COLD-f(X), rather the ingredient source - ginseng. Also, the information arsenal and references that the company can haul out or have presented in a retail environment have been shored up significantly. And the results probably won’t hurt the company’s share price.

The bad

We’ve already seen at least two other companies begin to leverage this study for their own purposes, liberally borrowing another company’s science. (One example is at: http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.asp?Feed=BW&Date=20051026&ID=5225949) And, as the story specifics begin to fade, we can expect to see more of this borrowing, likely creating a revenue and interest surge in the category. The surge though, will likely end up being somewhat misleading and short-lived as all products in the category will not have the same efficacy and ultimately long term category credibility will suffer. (We know though, that some companies we see in this industry apparently don’t care too much for long term credibility.)

The neutral

From a strategic standpoint, the study effect was actually quite predictable for CV Technologies. The company has taken advantage of the Canadian regulatory environment for natural health products and the ability to make certain claims, and generated a clinical result that is quite significant. Their presence in Canada has been bolstered by the result, and there has been some pick up of the study internationally. The category itself (ginseng-based products) has received attention. Other companies have and will leverage the investment CV Technologies has made in their research and development program and gain financially from this leveraging.

Some would say, “At least someone is willing to spend on science.”

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