Many chiropractors now carry nutritional products in their practices. Creating a natural products dispensary within one’s practice can not only broaden one’s income base, but also ensure that patients receive higher quality herbs and supplements. One of the most successful and fastest-growing segments of the supplement industry is products that address women’s health issues. Women are especially eager to find safe, effective alternatives to conventional treatments for menopause.
If you are like most physicians, roughly 70 – 80% of your patients are women. If women are a significant part of your patient base and you are not currently carrying a line of products tailored specifically to women’s health needs, you may be missing out on one of the most important opportunities in complementary medicine.
Consider these facts. According to the North American Menopause Society in 1994 an “estimated 40 million American women are now in or past menopause, with another 20 million due to reach that stage of life in the next decade.” While sales of meno-pausal drugs are projected to climb from $1.4 billion in 1995 to $3.8 billion in 2000, many women are not satisfied with conventional treatment options and are turning to natural alternatives. Two-thirds of women who fill a prescription for Premarin discontinue the medication within less than 12 months. According to Time magazine’s November 23, 1998 cover article, entitled “The Herbal Medicine Boom,” Americans spent more than $12 billion on natural supplements in 1997, nearly double the amount spent in 1994.
As more Americans turn to herbs and supplements for health care solutions, physicians will play an increasingly important role in helping patients choose appropriate products. Pharmacists, medical doctors and health care providers in all disciplines are fielding more questions about herbs and nutritional supplements, and patients expect their care providers to have knowledge about these products. Chiropractors can provide a valuable service to patients by helping them distinguish high quality products made by reputable companies from the vast array of lesser quality products now flooding the supplement market.
Of course, the decision to carry supplements in one’s practice carries the inherent responsibility to educate oneself regarding the quality and efficacy of products. Practitioners must be prepared to research scientific literature before offering products to patients. In addition, practitioners need to know the contraindications for all product ingredients and know which products may be poorly tolerated by certain patients.
How to select products for a women’s dispensary
One of the first issues a physician must tackle when creating a dispensary is determining which products to carry. Most physicians have limited space and primarily choose to carry pre-packaged products, such as encapsulated supplements and topical creams and gels. This article will be limited to a discussion of pre-packaged products and will not discuss guidelines for stacking tinctures, teas or homeopathic medicines for women’s health. Sifting through the mountains of articles and conflicting information about products can be rather daunting, but this author offers four simple steps to streamline this process.
FOUR STEPS TO SUCCESS
1. Choose product manufacturers carefully.
A. A proven track record.
You can narrow the field of potential products by first screening product manufacturers. Select a few companies with proven track records in the area of women’s health. Try to streamline your inventory maintenance time by ordering from a handful of companies rather than ordering products from lots of different companies. Look for companies that specialize in products for women.
Be aware that many new companies are rushing into the supplement and herb industry hoping to cash in on the current interest in natural products, so look for companies that have been in business at least five years. Have any of their products been used in clinical studies? Clinical studies are a more reliable demonstration of product efficacy than testimonials. Does the company have a commitment to customer satisfaction?
Ask companies what types of resources are available to professional customers. Look for companies that carry a line of products available only to professionals or who specialize in serving health care practitioners. Products formulated specifically for resale by practitioners are more likely to be of higher quality and contain therapeutic, rather than preventative amounts of nutrients and herbs.
When you call with questions about a product or how to use it, you should have easy access to a physician, a PhD nutritionist or some other individual with extensive knowledge of the product ingredients. Many companies do not provide adequate physician support and can only offer sales representatives to answer technical and medical questions. Look for companies with a commitment to ongoing customer education, provide research articles or can offer research references to support product formulations. Make sure the companies you patronize will unconditionally guarantee their products, as one can never predict how well individual patients will tolerate a given product.
2. Assure product quality.
Evaluating the merit of specific products requires the practitioner to educate himself or herself on the available scientific information. Practitioners do not always have the time to research every product as thoroughly as they might like. However, several keys to product information from the manufacturer can give important clues as to the product’s quality.
1.Are the product formulations backed by clinical research?
2.Can practitioners obtain a list of research articles behind the formulas?
3.Who formulates the products-physicians, nutritionists or trained herbalists?
4.Are products tested for quality assurance by an independent laboratory?
5.Can practitioners obtain copies of independent lab results?
6.What is the source of herbal product ingredients? Look for products that utilize organically grown, wildcrafted and/or standardized ingredients.
In addition, look for companies that utilize ingredients known to be well-absorbed. For example, studies have shown that calcium citrate is absorbed much better than calcium carbonate, which is cheaper. Furthermore, in general capsules are much easier to digest than tablets. Encapsulated products cost more, but most nutrition-oriented practitioners consider the added expense to be well-worth the trade-off for increased absorption.
It is customary for prepackaged products such as supplements and topical preparations to be priced at double the wholesale price or to follow the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Patients may require some education regarding product quality, if the products available at your office cost more than products available at local stores. Most patients are willing to spend a little more money for products that have been pre-screened by their physician for quality and absorption, but it is important to explain why your products are higher quality then a similar, less expensive product available at the local health food store. As mentioned previously, one way to avoid duplication with retail stores is to carry products sold exclusively to health care providers.
4.Specific women’s health products to consider.
A comprehensive women’s health dispensary should offer products that address the major health concerns of women, including, but not limited to:
- Premenstrual syndrome.
- Perimenopause and menopause.
- Cancer prevention.
- Breast health.
- Cardiovascular support.
- Bone health support.
- Emotional support.
Tailor the products you carry to the age range of women you treat. For example, if you treat a lot of younger, reproductive-age women, you should strongly consider products to support reproductive function and that address fibrocystic breasts and premenstrual syndrome. If the majority of your women patients are experiencing mid-life changes, you would be wise to consider natural hormone products, such as transdermal natural progesterone and herbs/nutrients that address vaginal and bone maintenance. Please refer to the list of companies that carry high quality professional products for women.
Once again, consider the facts and follow the four steps to harness one of the most successful and fastest-growing segments of the supplement industry. Not only can you broaden your income base, but you can also ensure that patients receive higher quality herbs and supplements.