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  • How Low Will Dietary Supplement Makers Go?

    July 15, 2012: by Bill Sardi

    Manufacturers intentionally confuse near-blind consumers and put patients’ vision at risk

    This report is being published in 20-point type for the visually impaired.

    It’s one thing to bilk online consumers with false and misleading advertising, but it’s entirely another to launch online advertising intended to deceive the near-blind into buying a dietary supplement that could lead to permanent loss of vision.

    Before I go on to explain this most recent example of depravity in the dietary supplement industry, a little background information needs to be provided.

    Easy entry into supplement marketplace

    Dietary supplements, love them as we do, are often marketed by a bunch of shady characters.  One reason is that it is so easy to gain entry into the business.  Locate a private label supplier to fill some capsules with powder, bottle them, slap on a label, create a webpage, ship them out of your garage and you are in business, sans any knowledge about permissible health claims, Good Manufacturing Practices, false advertising, etc.

    The current situation has gotten so out-of-hand that the only successful model for marketing dietary supplements today is to ignore the rules, steal business from others, and pay the fines afterwards with all the ill-gotten gains.

    Regulators idly stand by

    The FDA and FTC do little to put a stop to all this, apparently desiring to keep the dietary supplement industry making a mockery out of itself.  Those companies that do follow the rules are cast into a bucket of wormy players, the worst being found online.

    Will any resveratrol pill do?

    Easy entry of new products should be a good thing for consumers.   For example, there are over 350 brands of resveratrol products.  The wide array of choices may be good for consumers, or maybe just confusing.

    Will just any resveratrol pill do?  Apparently so.  While most consumers are first attracted to buy resveratrol pills on the science that surrounds them, most consumers buy resveratrol pills on price.  Prices range from $6 to $69 a bottle.  Dosage ranges from 25mg to 1000 mg.  Excessive doses are counter-productive, turning resveratrol from an anti-oxidant to a pro-oxidant.

    Out of all these brands, only one has undergone dosage, toxicity, and human clinical testing.  But that doesn’t seem to matter to most consumers.   The pocketbook is the primary decider in choosing brands.  Money is tight these days.

    Gold rush mentality for pill makers

    The many entrants into the red wine pill business mistakenly believed resveratrol pills were the next gold rush.  The 350 brands share an estimated $30 million of business, or about $40,000 of sales at wholesale price per brand, certainly not a gold-mine business.

    Despite all the scientific breakthroughs, the only successful run of selling resveratrol pills came when online marketers launched false advertising claims for their products over the internet and induced consumers to buy with free bottle offers that led to millions of dollars of undesired credit card charges.  As an aside, Google let all this happen without shutting it down when they could have stopped it.   The “first do no evil” company has dirty hands.

    Report issued

    Allow me to proceed.  Along about May 6 of 2012 Dr. Stuart Richer, chief of optometry at the North Chicago Veterans Health Center issued a report at the Eureka Alert website, a report that is now buried thirteen-pages deep on Google by other parties who swiped it divert web traffic and for commercial purposes.

    Dr. Richer reported a particular brand of resveratrol pill rescued 16 of 17 patients vision from a disease called wet macular degeneration when injected drugs had failed.  The disease is characterized by abnormal blood vessels that invade and destroy the visual center (macula) of the eyes.

    What happened in the aftermath will go down as maybe the low point in the modern history of selling dietary supplements.

    A nurse deceives and misleads

    Online marketers grabbed Dr. Richer’s press release and posted it online so as to attract consumers and posted advertisements for other various brands of resveratrol pills next to the report.  In one example, Kathleen Blanchard RN, writing for MAX Health.com, conveniently removed Dr. Richer’s caution where his report said “He advises patients not to risk their vision with unproven products” and re-worded it to say that patients “should not forgo conventional treatment and take Longevinex® or similar supplements at the risk of vision loss.”  Longevinex® is the proven brand of dietary supplement used by Dr. Richer in his report.

    Longevinex® cannot say anything about this directly as it cannot claim its product prevents, treats or cures any disease without facing a correction letter from the FDA.

    In other words, according to EMAXHealth.com the only brand of dietary supplement that was proven to work, shouldn’t be used, while EMAXHealth.com unashamedly directed online viewers to other unproven products, which if clicked on by consumers would generate a hidden kickback in the form of a click fee or affiliate fee.

    We need to ask nurse Blanchard (might just be a pen name), what if near-blind patients take an ineffective and unproven pill and suffer permanent vision loss that could have been averted by taking the pill used in Dr. Richer’s study?

    There is good reason to believe other brands of resveratrol pills may not work as well as the one selected for use at the Veterans Health Center because it (Longevinex®)was shown to influence genes that control new blood vessel formation six times better than plain resveratrol.

    Changing their trade names

    Dr. Richer, wanting his report to not sound like an commercial for a particular brand of dietary supplement, loosely referred to it as “resveratrol +” meaning resveratrol plus other ingredients.

    In an unconscionable move, all of a sudden makers of resveratrol pills changed the trade name of their unproven products to “resveratrol plus.”  You can find examples of this at Amazon.com.  These are major brand names doing this, not the pirate brands.

    Online scammers simply picked up on “resveratrol plus” as a new search term that consumers were using and began to steer online consumers to their products with no concern over whether their pills actually work.

    The typical patient with wet macular degeneration, who is struggling with their vision, is in their eighth decade of life and has a limited income.  So price is of concern.  They often need to increase the type size on their home computer monitor or use magnifiers to make their online purchase.

    If they find a phone number and call to ask “is this the company that makes the pills that were used in the study by Dr. Richer,” the answering party invariably says yes.

    Aside from the fact supplement makers are not allowed to make claims their product prevents, treats or cures any disease, the very idea of leading near-blind consumers to totally unproven products is certainly a low point in online supplement marketing.

    The self-treatment trap

    Imagine patients are led to self-treat instead of seeing their eye doctor, as Dr. Richer strongly advised in his report, since there is proven medicine for most patients with this eye condition.  Newly available drugs are injected directly into the eyes every 4-6 weeks that cause the unwanted blood vessels to recede.  Dr. Richer only used the pills when the injected medicine failed, which occurs in one of every six patients.

    The reason for this failure is known and resveratrol addresses that problem.  But that doesn’t mean every available resveratrol pill in a wide array of doses and accompanying other ingredients works as effectively as the pill Dr. Richer chose to use in his report.

    If proven in future studies, such a pill would avert the need to inject medicine directly into the eyes and save billions of healthcare dollars.  But that would require a study lasting over a year and costing over $2 million to prove and a New Drug Application to be filed, as dietary supplements are not permitted to prevent, treat or cure diseases.

    I know about all this because I am the managing partner for Longevinex®, the supplement used by Dr. Richer in his report.

    Do you think the renegade online marketers of resveratrol pills are going to re-word this very report you are reading now and use it for their commercial gain?  I wouldn’t put it past them.

    I also imagine the FDA could use all this as an excuse to usher in draconian regulations against the dietary supplement industry.

    All I can say is: God help the patients with wet macular degeneration.  Copyright 2012 Bill Sardi, ResveratrolNew.com

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One Response to “How Low Will Dietary Supplement Makers Go?”

  1. Ender Wiggin Says:
    July 28th, 2012 at 9:36 am

    This doesn’t really make sense. You’ve linked to an Amazon page of Country Life’s Resveratrol Plus. This product was shown by Consumer Lab to have the stated dose of resveratrol at high purity and potency. There are also consistently high ratings for the product by people who have tried it and found it helped with their symptoms! So it clearly works. Further, the Longevinex product is way too overpriced, at about $1 for 100 mg resveratrol, plus other ingredients like rice bran phytate/ferulate (easily gotten from diet), vitamin D3 (very cheaply gotten separately), and quercetin (also cheaply available separately in many multivitamins). Your product also has various measures to microencapsulate, micronize, and protect the resveratrol from oxidation. But guess what? There was a study showing that resveratrol is a stable compound and has no need for all these expensive protective measures. Simply storing a normal capsule in a dark glass bottle at cool temps is sufficient. So, the Longevinex product is essentially wildly over-priced. This is why I (and probably many others) could never justify purchasing it.

    ResveratrolNews.com:

    Please, by all means, you are free to choose any of the many unproven products that provide resveratrol in hopes they work as well as a product proven to work in humans. While most resveratrol pill users are attracted to this molecule over its spectacular science, they, like you, purchase products based upon price.

    The Amazon page that a recent article at ResveratrolNews.com linked to pointed to pretender products that had no regard for your health or that of others. They changed the name of their products to fool near-blind consumers that their product was the same as the one (Longevinex) that was successfully used to quell a sight-threatening eye disease in a small number of cases.

    National Institutes of Health researchers conducted a microRNA study of resveratrol and Longevinex and found that both control genes that inhibit new blood vessels that undesirably form at the back of the eyes. However, resveratrol was only responsible for 16% of the inhibition of the gene that controls new blood vessel formation (called angiogenesis) while the other 84% of this beneficial effect was produced by other ingredients in Longevinex.

    If you or a loved one has this terrible eye disease and you have no treatment options left, and you elect to use what you believe is equivalent to Longevinex and your sight is lost permanently, that would again be your choice. Unfortunately, it is the choice of many consumers, who falsely believe any resveratrol pill will do. You would only be fooling yourself to believe that.

    Please by all means, find those other “cheap” ingredients and use them in addition to resveratrol in an amateur attempt to produce the same biological effect as Longevinex. But I certainly hope you don’t advise others to do the same. Certainly not elderly adults who are struggling to maintain their sight. It is difficult to believe you would choose to use a product that intentionally attempts to mislead near-blind consumers.

    In regard to your claim that Longevinex is over-priced, the raw materials alone in Longevinex cost more than the entire retail price of the product you mention. That should cause you to pause over whether the ingredients in this other product are actually provided as labeled. Assume vitamin D3, ferulic acid, quercetin, nucleotides and IP6 pills can be purchased individually and only cost 10-cents per pill. That would represent 60-cents of the cost of Longevinex without the resveratrol and would present a tedious task to take all those pills.

    As to your claim that resveratrol is stable, a recent report said: “RSV’s bioavailability is compromised by its physicochemical properties, such as low stability, increased oxidation on heat and light exposure, low water solubility and also its high hepatic uptake.” ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21668403 ) Another study concludes: “Resveratrol is unstable against light, heat, wet-heating and oxidizer.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17944191 )

    The citation you refer to involving the stability of resveratrol did not subject resveratrol to heat that exceeded room temperature. Nor did it expose resveratrol to prolonged UV light. That study was company sponsored and is at odds with other many other studies. It is the only published report which claims resveratrol is stable.

    The company that sponsored that study provided resveratrol as a raw material to a pill maker in the USA that was embroiled in a lawsuit over whether its brand of resveratrol had the labeled amount of resveratrol in it. That company lost the lawsuit.

    You can’t just choose the science you want to believe. There is no other study that claims resveratrol is a stabile molecule. The very existence of cis-resveratrol, the degraded form of resveratrol, proves that its biologically active trans-resveratrol form can be altered by exposure to the elements.

    The false notion that ingredients in Longevinex can be obtained from the diet is specious. So which foods can reliably provide the same amount of quercetin, ferulic acid, IP6 as found in Longevinex? These ingredients must be available at the same time resveratrol is consumed, and in the same ratios to be equivalent to Longevinex. Using your logic, why take supplements at all, just eat a good diet and hope your failed vision returns.

    By the way, ConsumerLab only tests for trans-resveratrol, not cis-resveratrol as well. If they did test for both trans and cis resveratrol they would likely find some of the degraded form of resveratrol.

    Yes, bioperine like quercetin does improve immediately bioavailability of resveratrol by inhibition of metabolism in the liver. This effect is temporary as all resveratrol eventually is metabolized in the liver. Liver metabolism (attaching resveratrol to detoxification molecules glucuronate and sulfate) prolongs the half-life of resveratrol by many hours. Otherwise half of resveratrol disappears (its half life) in 14 minutes in the human blood circulation.

    I think any day consumers can find other low-cost products that work as well as higher-priced products, that is a great day for consumers. I think natural gas-driven cars would be far cheaper than gasoline-propelled cars, for example. You can choose to buy an automobile tire that you believe works well in the rain. But if you want a Michelin tire that has been proven to stop an automobile in slick rain better than a common-treaded rubber tire, then you will pay a bit more. When you locate a resveratrol pill that is proven to work as well as Longevinex (not just assumed to work as well) please herald that and Longevinex should go out of business. There is no room for expensive buggy whips.

    Bill Sardi

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