Product Mentions in NMJ

Letter to the publisher raises concerns about product promotion in the journal

By Alexander Schauss, PhD, FACN

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Letter to the Publisher

Dear Ms. Gazella,

I was surprised to see an audio presentation in the June 2011 issue of Natural Medicine Journal that promotes a specific product, rather than a generic discussion of ingredients in the product and their attributes. I think this sets a precedent and wonder what guidelines have been established by the editorial board and management of the journal as it relates to such submissions. Will NMJ become a publication used to promote products? Is the journal opening a Pandora’s box that invites advertising in the form of “articles” or audio presentations?

Sincerely,

Alexander Schauss, PhD, FACN

Publisher's Response

Dear Dr. Schauss,

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us and voice your concern. It was my decision to interview Dr. Lyon and I am the person who also conducted the interview. I had been hearing about Dr. Lyon’s research, and when I discovered that he had published more than a dozen papers in as many months, I decided to do some research. Dr. Lyon’s human clinical trials have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals and address some significant health issues as they relate to insulin control and weight loss. I felt it was important to shed some light on the work he is doing. Dr. Lyon’s published research specifically mentions the ingredient he studied in the title in many of his papers, so I did not feel I was promoting a specific brand, just discussing the published literature.

That said, I should have disclosed that one of NMJ’s sponsors sells the ingredient that Dr. Lyon uses in his clinical studies. I would like to point out that the sponsor did not pay anything for the interview, and NMJ did not financially benefit as a result of doing the interview.

I do feel you bring up an extremely valid point about NMJ needing clear guidelines that govern this information, whether in audio, video or printed form. Such guidelines do not presently exist.

As a result of your letter, we will be creating a committee of Editorial Board members to review proposed guidelines. We would be very pleased if you would consider being on that committee. In addition, we welcome input from our readers to see where they land on this subject.

On the one hand, why shouldn’t we feature information about branded ingredients if the studies were featured in a respected peer-reviewed medical journal and they are well-designed human clinical trials? Natural substances sometimes don’t get enough positive attention, so why not publish this information if it stands up to the scrutiny of the guidelines we create? Won’t this help prevent “borrowed science” and advance our field? On the other hand, NMJ will not be sold to the highest bidder. This is why the guidelines are so important.

As you can see, we’ve intentionally kept our advertising extremely low so as to cut down on commercialism. And yet our journal is absolutely free to anyone who wants to read it. This is intentional, as we don’t want to restrict access to the valuable information we provide.

We welcome comments from readers on this extremely important issue. Thanks again Dr. Schauss for opening up this dialogue.

Sincerely,

Karolyn A. Gazella

Natural Medicine Journal Founder and Publisher

Senior Medical Editor's Response

As a practicing clinician and the senior medical editor of NMJ, I agree we should all be vigilant of commercial interest when assessing information on nutritional supplements. There are two questions of utmost importance regarding proprietary or patented products. One: Is the research exclusive to that proprietary agent, or can the research be extrapolated to include other non-branded, or similar agents? Two: Is what is said, written, or lectured upon being delivered as rigorous data, or is it in-house information meant for sales and marketing of a specific product? Each of these questions must be answered on an individual product basis, and each should be addressed and disclosed so that the answers are clear to the recipient.

Regarding the specific concern Dr. Schauss expresses, we do not currently conduct any peer review of the audio interviews. Audio interviews are meant to be an informative and interesting conversation with an expert on a given topic. In this particular case, the original researcher of the product was interviewed. Having published extensively on the product, his expertise has some inherent bias. These interviews are not scripted, nor are they vetted by the editorial board. Dr. Schauss’s concern, however, brings up a good point. Perhaps the subject and content of audio interviews should undergo review much like the printed manuscripts of the journal. With this in mind, we will be reviewing our policy regarding the audio interviews.

Dr. Schauss has given us an opportunity to improve the rigor of our educational offerings to healthcare professionals. I will personally lead the effort to create clear guidelines that help us determine whether or not we should cover a specific branded ingredient. I welcome such input from my colleagues and will give these concerns continued consideration. And I thank you in advance for reaching out to us and sharing your opinions on this subject.

Sincerely,

Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO

Natural Medicine Journal Senior Medical Editor

About the Author

Alexander Schauss, PhD, FACN, is the CEO and senior director of research of AIBMR Life Sciences, a scientific and regulatory consultancy headquartered in Seattle. He has been a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of Alternative Medicine, Alternative Medicine Program Advisory Council; a member of the Ad Hoc Developmental Planning Committee of the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements; a reviewer of botanical standards and information monographs for the US Pharmacopoeia (USP) Convention; and a reviewer for the International Bibliographic Information on Dietary Supplements database. A certified food scientist and fellow of the American College of Nutrition, Schauss has served on numerous Generally Recognized As Safe expert panels, and USP’s Extended-Release Dietary Supplement Expert Panel. He is the author of nearly 250 publications, including 23 books and 37 chapters.