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Lead to Gold: The alchemy of transforming nutritional-supplement-to-medication

Posted Jan 11 2009 2:57pm
Here's a recipe to make hundreds of millions of dollars. Others have done it and you can do it, too!

1) Identify a nutritional supplement that works.

Find some agent deemed to fall within the broad allowances of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. However, because this agent is already in the public domain and is essential non-patent-protectable, you may need to develop some patent protectable aspect of its production, application, or encapsulation. This patent-protected aspect may or may not provide genuine advantage, but that's not your concern. Your concern is protecting your investment and providing the appearance of exclusivity.


2) Identify a medical indication for your product.

Choose a disease or condition that is likely to yield unquestioned efficacy, e.g., omega-3 fatty acids to reduce high triglycerides in people with familial hypertriglyceridemia (triglycerides >500 mg/dl). While this will restrict your ability to make market claims, it will not restrain your ability to sell or allow use of your agent for "off-label" applications. In fact, there are methods to surreptitiously promote the use of your product for off-label use, such as hiring experts to discuss the science behind your product with doctors who can prescribe your product. Ideally, your product's primary indication will provide a substantial market on its own to justify your investment. However, the eventual off-label sales can be substantial, even outstripping the sales generated through your primary indication.


3) Obtain at least $230 million to pay for the clinical trials required to obtain FDA approval.

You will also have to raise the capital to build the business to manufacture, distribute, and sell your product.


4) After FDA approval is obtained, your business is up and running, and distribution begins, start bashing the non-FDA-approved nutritional products that stand to compete in your market.

You could point out that only your product has actually passed through the rigorous FDA process. You could make claims regarding purity, potency, "approved by your doctor," etc., whether or not there is any truth behind the claim.


5) Buy that second vacation home in Aspen and the corporate jet you've been dreaming about! After all the risks you've taken, you deserve it!


That's it, plain and simple. It is a tried-and-true formula that has been applied many times.

It is a formula like this that brought Lovaza-brand omega-3 fatty acids to market, Niaspan brand of niacin, ergocalciferol form of vitamin D, Folbee (prescription combination B vitamins), with a slightly different spin for Synthroid (since the Armour Thyroid it is meant to replace is not a nutritional supplement, but a low-cost, generic thyroid replacement).

Whatever you do, don't EVER run a head-to-head comparative trial of your agent versus the nutritional supplement competition. For instance, NEVER compare Lovaza to supplemental fish oil capsules, matched milligram-for-milligram for EPA and DHA content. NEVER compare Niaspan to over-the-counter Sloniacin. NEVER compare Armour Thyroid to Synthroid. You never know what you might find. (Psssssttt! They might be equivalent!)

The formula is not a foolproof road paved with riches, however. There have been market failures, as well. Folbee, for instance, is hardly a household name. So there's risk involved, no question about it. But, should it all work out, the payoff can be big, VERY big, as it has been for Niaspan and Lovaza.

So, start thinking about how you might follow this formula for:

1) Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3)--e.g., for osteopenia, low HDL, or high c-reactive protein
2) Vitamin K2--also for osteopenia
3) Magnesium--for suppression of ventricular arrhythmias (especially Torsade de Pointes)
4) Iodine--for goiter and iodine deficiency
5) Vitamin C--for uric acid reduction

Who said you can't turn lead into gold?
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