CHPA launches Dietary Supplements Index for legislation-minded market research
There is rising attention to the role of nutrition supplements in healthcare as an alternative or supporting treatment to traditional drugs
25 Mar 2022 --- The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) has introduced the Dietary Supplements Index (DSX), a platform that conveys market information about health and nutrition supplements trends. It hopes this will help convince legislators, insurers and employers to expand US healthcare to cover dietary supplements.
According to the CHPA, the tool may also be used to encourage healthcare providers to recommend dietary supplements to patients as part of their health routine. Spins, a US-based wellness-oriented data, analytics and technology provider, was used as the primary source for the DSX.
David Spangler, CHPA’s senior vice president of legal, governmental affairs and policy tells NutritionInsight:
“This is a tool that can look at purchase by region, and two possible uses would be to speak to legislators about use or purchase in their regions when advocating for flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA) coverage; or with plans when talking about healthcare package options.”
He indicates there may also be interest in making the tool available to commercial industry players. “It’s too early to know if it could be made more widely available. But that’s something we will be looking at.”
Drawbacks and limitations
A limitation to the DSX is that it is not capable of tracking causal relationships between widespread supplement use and large-scale increases in positive health outcomes.
This means that while the DSX notes that people are buying more supplements, the tool does not appear to offer data on whether this has directly positively impacted the health of consumers in a given area.
“The tool starts with tracking sales, and then we can look at other data sources to overlay different sets of numbers to generate hypotheses or inferences, and to follow trends, but that will not show direct cause and effect,” explains Spangler
Broader reform necessary
To ensure consumer safety and reduce liability, making supplements a part of basic healthcare packages may require modernization of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, a piece of federal US legislation.
The DSHEA has been attacked for its lax definition and regulation of supplements since its introduction by critics, including US clinical neurologist Steven Novella and pediatrician and Chief Science Officer of the White House COVID-19 Response Team, David Kessler.
A move to allow healthcare coverage of dietary supplements could also generate confusion among consumers, who may not be equipped with the education to understand the differences between dietary supplements and more targeted and efficacious pharmaceuticals.
Recently, a review commissioned by the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry and the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments flagged nutraceuticals and phytoceuticals could play a role in psychiatric care, but cautioned more reliable, large-scale research is needed to understand substances’ safety and efficacy.
How it works
The DSX looks at supplements across major categories such as General Health (including Bone & Joint, Stress/Anxiety and Superfood & Whole Foods), Brain Health, Digestive Health, Immunity and Sleep.
The tool scores dietary supplement unit sales for a given period (quarterly or annually), which can be calculated at a national, state or regional level, and comparisons can be made across different population demographics. For example, the baseline score for the Immunity category for 2019, a pre-COVID-19 era, was 100. This jumped to 122 in 2021.
Changing scores can be contextualized by comparing the DSX with public data sources from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, among others.
A preliminary DSX analysis showed that between 2019 and 2021, DSX scores increased nationally across every category, but at the forefront were Sleep, Immunity and Brain Health. The CHPA explains, during the pandemic, consumers initially focused on immunity.
However, as more variants emerged, focus shifted to brain and sleep supplements to address stress from the ongoing pandemic, while immunity actually began to fall. This was also highlighted by Innova Market Insights last October, who noted mental health positionings were poised to edge out immunity claims.
By Olivia Nelson
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