How do you recognise good clinical trials on nutraceuticals?

Clinical trials on nutraceutical products are increasingly widespread and their promotion is becoming a vital asset for achieving market success. However, not all clinical trials are created equal. With that in mind, what exactly are the factors that make a trial “good”?

By Maja Orešnik, science and research director at PharmaLinea

As pharma brands, such as STADA, Bayer, Haleon, and so forth, increasingly step into nutraceuticals, the importance of clinical substantiation has increased rapidly – not only on ingredients but also on the finished products. For example, Elevit, one of Bayer’s globally present and market-leading prenatal supplement, has several clinical studies completed on the finished formulation, thus cementing its position and deferring many challengers from entering the segment. In their recently released 2023 mid-year report, Haleon also stated they have activated a claim obtained from a clinical trial on Centrum Silver, their multivitamin for healthy ageing “across a number of markets, leading to double-digit growth and market share gains in the multivitamin segment in the US and China”.

At the same time, consumers are becoming more educated and proactive when deciding which nutraceutical products to buy. In a recent consumer survey, performed by FMCG Gurus, 82% of responders said they prefer products with clinically proven claims when deciding on immune health support products. According to another survey by FrieslandCampina, stress support supplement users have revealed a similar sentiment – 84% of them are willing to pay a higher price for products that have clinical proof of efficacy.

However, for nutraceutical products specifically, there is still no set of rules that would determine the steps one should take when performing a clinical trial. Therefore, not all of these trials (and consequently the results obtained through them) are equally “good”. In that case, do we distinguish the good from the rest?

A general rule when performing a clinical trial on nutraceuticals would be to adhere to the same standards that the pharmaceutical industry follows when conducting studies, or to at least approach them as closely as possible. Taking that into account, there are several factors to be considered when determining the quality of a clinical trial.

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