Thursday, September 06, 2007

Misleading mothers builds industry revenues

A few things come to my attention that show how formula companies misleading mothers is big business. Today's story relates to Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (LCPUFAs). As I've related before, these have been added to many formulas around the world, supplied by a company called Martek and derived from algae and designated as DHA and ARA.

Although evaluated as not dangerous, the claimed benefits for LCPUFAs were found not to be substantiated when evaluated by independent academic body, the Cochrane Library. This stated:

"At present there is little evidence from randomised trials of LCPUFA supplementation to support the hypothesis that LCPUFA supplementation confers a benefit for visual or general development of term infants".


Now compare that information with these claims for Mead Johnson Enfamil Lipil, that appeared in this US website promotion today stating:

---Quote begins
While you're pregnant, your baby gets everything he needs from you. Particularly the eye-and brain-building nutrients DHA and ARA. But the need for these nutrients doesn't stop when your baby is born.

His brain and eye development continues at an amazing rate for the first 2 years of his life. So how do you help ensure that your baby continues to get what he needs?

Either through breast milk or Enfamil LIPIL with Iron.

Only Enfamil has LIPIL, a unique blend of DHA and ARA, the important nutrients found in breast milk that support brain and eye development.

Plus Enfamil LIPIL provides other nutrients your baby needs, everything from easy-to-digest protein and calcium to over 20 vitamins and other minerals.

In fact, no formula is closer to breast milk. Is it any wonder pediatricians recommend Enfamil LIPIL?
---quote ends

Given a free reign, the companies will idealize their products with claims that are not substantiated by the science, as the Cochrane Review shows. This does nothing to help parents, who are told by all companies that their brand of formula is the closest to breastmilk. See:

Advertising of infant formula in the UK is prohibited, but similar idealizing claims have been made by Mead Johnson in advertisements for health workers in the UK, as exposed in our Hard Sell Formula pamphlet. Companies have made similar claims on labels in the UK, until a recent crack down by the authorities.

As analysts Hambrecht and Quist said of Martek's Formulaid LCP additive back when it was first being hawked around: "Even if Formulaid had no benefit we think that it would be widely incorporated into most formulas as a marketing tool and to allow companies to promote their formula as 'closest to human milk.'"

Mead Johnson has a deal running to 2017 to obtain LCPs for its formulas exclusively from Martek and is its biggest customer in the US. See:

So how is it going for Martek? On Tuesday it reported record revenues, up 11% on last year. See:

As I mentioned recently, in the US a Congressional hearing is taking place into why advertisements to raise awareness of the risks of formula were substantially weakened. The hearings arose after the former Surgeon General Richard Carmona testified that the Bush administration impeded his efforts to promote public health.

Today the industry is denying it was its influence that weakened the information, claiming that a “broad collation of groups had concerns with this campaign.” See PR Week. Health advocates have defended the scientific basis for the information in the original Department of Health and Human Services advertisements and accuse officials of bowing to industry pressure.

On the one hand claims idealizing formula are promoted with apparent impunity despite the lack of substantiation, on the other, information based on peer-reviewed studies is expunged from an advertising campaign.

The results: mothers are misled, revenues for the industry increase and breastfeeding rates decrease.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

...and infants (i.e. the next generation) and their mothes continue to suffer the long term consequences. Isn't it astounding (but unsurprising considering their connections) how the formula (i.e. pharmaceutical) industry can get away so blatantly with perpetuating its own existence...