Medicine-whether in the form of health supplements or pharmaceuticals-is big business indeed. With profit margins that are nearly four times the average of any other business, the pharmaceutical industry enjoys a top position being amongst the most profitable businesses in the world.
The nutraceutical industry is not far behind offering stiff competition to pharmaceutical counterparts. Research is booming and science-based studies have given successful impetus to the plant-based health supplement industry. Some of the more popular botanicals like as Echinacea, gingko biloba, ginseng, garlic, and St. John’s Wort are seeing sales that put them in the same league with many prescription drugs. In fact, so popular is the health supplement industry that pharmaceutical giants like Bayer, American Home Products, Johnson and Johnson and Boeheringer-Ingelheim have all begun to sell supplements!
What is the Difference?
There is not much of a difference between nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals except for the way in which they are regulated in the United States although both are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration. Major differences include:
* Pharmaceuticals that are derived from plant proteins for vaccines and medical treatments are not the same as nutraceuticals. The major difference is that pharmaceuticals are designed specifically for medical use under a physician’s supervision, and are subject to Food And Drugs Administration approval.
Health supplements do not need medical supervision, nor Food And Drugs Administration approval.
* Pharmaceuticals need prescription from a certified doctor for purchase. The choice of a health supplements is up to the individual. Health supplements are sold without restrictions at health food stores, grocery stores, drug stores, national discount chains, mail-order and Internet.
* There are no strict regulating laws governing health supplements. Just about anyone can put together a health supplement, notify the Food And Drugs Administration , and put it in the market. In stark contrast, it takes anywhere between 8-12 years for a new drug to be approved by the Food And Drugs Administration . Pharmaceuticals undergo intense regulatory reviews by the Food And Drugs Administration .
* Because of stricter regulations, pharmaceuticals have greater evidence of efficacy and safety. Whereas health supplements are based on tradition with insufficient evidence of safety and efficacy. However, this is changing as new research builds up to support the health benefits of some of the accepted nutrients. Eg omega 3 fatty acids.
* Pharmaceuticals are patented. Herbs and health supplements are not patented and therefore the profits are limited with stiff competition from all kinds of health supplement manufacturers.
* Pharmaceuticals spend millions of dollars for research and paperwork for a new therapeutic claim of an established drug all to satisfy Food And Drugs Administration requirements. Food And Drugs Administration requirements for health supplements are not at all stringent apart from barring them from making any false health claims about their product and adding a disclaimer: “This statement has not been evaluat