A Medical Foods Industry Organization? Why Now Now?
By, Jim Daniels, CEO, CortControl LLC
A few days ago, I learned that the Medical Foods Industry Conference & Expo, or MFICE, a two-day event scheduled for early August in Miami, had been cancelled due to low registration.
I was disappointed for a couple of reasons.
First, I was looking forward to attending, meeting other people with a stake in this rapidly growing market, and listening to their perspectives on how to best move our industry ahead. Such a conference would have, I am sure, been an exciting, invigorating, and illuminating couple of days.
Second—and far more important—I felt that this conference would have represented a major step forward in creating a strong, engaged medical foods community. At this early stage in our industry’s development—when many MDs and pharmaceutical companies don’t know much about medical foods and when there is even disagreement on the very meaning of the term “medical foods” itself—discussion and learning are essential.
It’s difficult to speculate why people were hesitant about attending. John LaRosa, the President of Marketdata Enterprises and one of the key conference organizers, felt that such an event might have been “a little ahead of its time in this market.” The lack of awareness by health care practitioners and pharmaceutical companies certainly factors in. And I’m sure that there are lingering doubts in certain sectors about the effectiveness of medical foods.
Caution and doubt aside, however, medical foods has quickly become a $1.3 billion market in the U.S. alone, and, if our industry wants to enjoy continued robust growth, we have to address the issues that most likely led to the
cancellation of this conference. Specifically, we need to:
- Explain to more people what actually constitutes a medical food. The FDA has set down a very clear definition and an equally clear process for agency approval. This is a great starting point to begin conversations. If it’s not FDA-approved, it’s not a medical food. Period.
- Tell more people about the numerous scientific studies now being released proving the effectiveness of medical foods in treating various ailments. These can range from depression to female infertility, diabetes, insomnia, heart disease, and early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
- Create a mechanism for us to define and then monitor our own best business practices. This way we can self-regulate, clarifying the differences between legitimate and fraudulent or sub-standard medical foods developers, manufacturers, and marketers.
- Orchestrate the communications that occurs between the industry and all the groups with a stake in medical foods. This includes the FDA, the scientific community, academia, health care professionals, pharmaceutical companies, and the hundreds of millions of people who can benefit from these foods.
- Think strategically about our shared future. Even though we may represent different companies, organizations, and points of view, we are all—ultimately—in this together.
- This “to do” list, of course, points to an inevitable conclusion—we need a medical foods industry trade organization that is both committed to addressing these needs and up to the job. Yes, creating this kind of organization from scratch will require—as a great man once said—some “blood, sweat, toil and tears.” It will also require some financial investment. But, if put together correctly, such an organization will deliver an enormous return for everyone with a stake in medical foods—from the companies that will manufacture them to the health care practitioners who dispense them, to the patients who benefit from them.
In short, if we in medical foods want to see ourselves as an industry, then we will need to think and act like an industry.
James Daniels is the CEO of CortControl, which develops and markets GlutrasolTM, a patent-pending medical food for the treatment of such indications as infertility, vaccine enhancement, diabetes, depression, breast cancer, heart disease, sleep disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease.