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Nutritional Concepts Mid-Week Brief
July 24, 2013
Dear Valued Subscriber,

 

We hope you are having a great week!

 

Have a happy, healthy day. Bonnie and Steve Minsky

Why Is a Popular Stevia Product Being Sued?

Bonnie and Steve: Cargill and the Coca Cola Company, the partnership that brought you Truvia, "nature's calorie-free sweetener," is being sued in Hawaii because the plaintiff alleges that Truvia is misleading consumers by marketing it as natural.

 

As we warned you before Truvia ever came to market, the ingredients Reb-A steviol glycosides and bulking agent erythritol are highly processed and synthetic.

 

Cargill describes the process of obtaining stevia leaf extract as similar to making tea, but does not tell the consumer that Cargill then adds ethanol, methanol, or rubbing alcohol in a patented multi-step process. Hence, Reb-A is not the natural crude preparation of stevia, but rather is a highly chemically processed and purified form of stevia leaf extract.

We would actually be okay with Truvia if Reb-A was the only ingredient. Unfortunately, erythritol is the game changer. Cargill manufactures synthetic erythritol in a patented process by first chemically extracting starch from genetically modified corn and then converting the starch to glucose through the biochemical process of enzymatic hydrolysis. The glucose is then fermented utilizing moniliella pollinis, a yeast. Because Truvia is 99% erythritol, it absolutely cannot be considered natural.

 

We do not think the lawsuit has much of a chance because the FDA is so loose with the labeling term "natural." However, we do think lawsuits like these are necessary because they are one of the only ways to bring attention to the fact that food manufacturers consistently try to dupe consumers with creative labeling practices. Marketing Truvia as "nature's calorie-free sweetener" is a prime example. 

 

We feel that Cargill/Coca Cola's Truvia and Pepsi's PureVia have done a major disservice to the stevia industry. Not only have they chemicalized stevia, but have shoved the smaller players, such as our favorite brand, Sweet Leaf, off the shelves with its marketing might and payola practices. If it were not for independent health food stores, we would most likely have only these two brands to choose from.

 

Sobering Study on the Cozy Relationship Between Doctor and Pharma Rep.

Bonnie and Steve: While we are on the topic of doing a disservice to consumers, a first-of-its-kind study published in this month's Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine proves how rampant Big Pharma handouts still are among small physician groups and private practices.

 

The study's authors admit that most doctors who practice outside of academic institutions and see pharmaceutical reps accept drug samples and gifts. Moreover, little guidance exists for practicing physicians wanting transform their practices to pharma-free.

 

The pharmaceutical industry spends between $12 and $57 billion per year on promotional activities. The proportion of primary care physicians with industry relationships remains stubbornly high (84%). As of 2009, pharmaceutical companies employed a sales force of 92,000, or 1 drug representative for every 8 physicians.


The objective of this study was to describe the efforts of a small private practice of 5 physicians and a physician assistant as it embarked on an intentional and carefully considered path to discontinue seeing pharmaceutical representatives and to stop accepting and distributing drug samples.

 

To get an idea of the scope of this issue, during the 6 months immediately preceding the decision to change the pharmaceutical rep policy, it was found that the practice was visited 199 times (an average of 33.17 times per month) by pharmaceutical representatives. Drug companies sponsored 23 in-clinic lunches from February to November, an average of 2.3 lunches per month.

  

The estimated average price per month of the pharma-sampled medicines was $90. Reasonable, less expensive alternatives could be identified for 38 of 46 sampled drugs. At an average of $22 per month, using a less expensive, often generic alternative would save the ultimate payer $70 per therapy per month.  

 

Interviews with staff identified several concerns with going pharma-free. First, staff enjoyed the promotional items that are distributed frequently by drug representatives, such as pads of paper, pens, and mugs. Many of the branded items were taken home by staff members. Second, physicians, staff and their family members personally used samples in the cabinets. Most important, staff enjoyed the opportunity to get together socially for lunch when it was provided for them.

 

Steve: The physician group in this study was eventually able to transform their practice, but not without numerous bumps in the road and major compromises reached. However, many practices do not have the time or resources to seek out the type of assistance provided to this group.

 

Until this unacceptable relationship is a thing of the past, take matters into your own hands. Ask these two questions if applicable.

  • Is there is a generic alternative to the medication you are prescribing?
  • Do you have deals with testing/procedure facilities you refer to? For example, do you get a fee for referring me to the testing facility that performs my MRI? If the answer is yes, then immediately price out two other facilities to see if there is a cheaper alternative.