“We need to challenge regulatory guidelines that require natural health products to behave similarly to drugs.”
Dr. Mal Evans, our CSO, recently spoke at a symposium for the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. Entitled Prospects for Japan’s G20 Osaka Summit, this conference provided a critical assessment of the agenda for the upcoming G20 event, with experts speaking on a variety of different global issues.
This year’s Osaka summit will focus on international innovation, with topics of interest including economic growth, the reduction of wealth disparities, the digital economy, environmental concerns, and complications stemming from aging societies. Scheduled for June 28–29, this occasion is the largest of its kind to ever be hosted by Japan.
In line with these themes, Dr. Evans’ Toronto presentation focused on science’s role in the improvement of global health and wellness. Specifically, she examined the current burden on 21st-century health-care systems, a problem augmented by our growing elderly population. Solving this issue, she argued, will require a renewed focus on the circumvention of preventable disease.
Dr. Evans began her discussion by outlining the current state of the international medical community. Today, countries are staunchly focused on the use of drugs to treat disease. While this is a very important role in any health-care system, Dr. Evans notes that we must also attend to health promotion and disease prevention. While previous standards of health-care incorporated lifestyle changes into their treatment models, we have strayed from this ideal. For Dr. Evans, this is inherently problematic. “Now, we are prescribing drugs earlier as a preventative measure,” she said. “Leadership needs to be taken in emphasizing the importance of health and wellness, and augmenting the ‘healthspan’ of global populations.”
This is especially concerning matter in North America. By 2021, the continent will be populated by 143 million elderly individuals — 3/5 of whom will live with at least one chronic disease. Generally, these illnesses could have been prevented with proper precaution; instead, they are now being treated reactively, and amount to 75% of our total health-care costs.
This, said Dr. Evans, is a call for proactive health management. Currently, only 3% of the aforementioned health-care expenses are used for disease prevention. And, between 2013 and 2020, we have seen billions of dollars in avoidable health-care expenditures being lost to preventable disease. The key to correcting this issue, argued Dr. Evans, lies in underscoring the need for competent scientific evidence surrounding health and wellness products. With over 100 thousand North Americans experiencing harmful deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, natural health products have the potential to immensely contribute to overall health and well-being. “The benefits of natural health products are far-reaching,” added Dr. Evans. “The entire health-care system is seeing positive results due to its use.”
Better Nature: Natural Health Products and Clinical Trial Design
If natural health products are so beneficial to global health and wellness, then why are they still often snubbed in favour of pharmaceuticals? The answer is simple, said Dr. Evans: “we are unable to see outside of the box when looking at products that are not drugs.” However, with an aging population worldwide and growing health costs, there is a need for immediate action.
To improve the reception of natural health products, the public must be convinced of their safety and efficacy. Dr. Evans noted that to achieve this, scientists must produce “competent and reliable models of evidence” for natural health products — which cannot be achieved by “evaluating them in the same manner as pharmaceutical drugs.” Rather than judging natural health products under the drug model, augmented models of clinical trial design are required.
For Dr. Evans, this paradigm shift lies in focusing on the clinical — rather than statistical — significance of natural health products. As suggested in the scientific journal Nature, “truth cannot be revealed by a single number;” thus, rather than only focusing on “P values” (measures of numerical importance), studies should also elucidate whether a product has practical gravity. Under a model of this sort, the true benefit of any worthy NHP may be revealed.
If this were to be adequately enacted, the immense utility of traditional medicinal systems could be made available at the primary health-care level. And, were natural health products to become part of national health-care systems, preventable diseases could be avoided.
So, where does the North American natural health products industry go from here? “We need to challenge guidelines that require NHPs to behave similarly to drugs,” suggested Dr. Evans. “Our regulatory bodies and stakeholders need to come together to change the ways in which NHPs are evaluated. While the drug model has given us a fundamental base to build on, it is insufficient for use in the evaluation of NHPs.”
By making necessary these necessary changes, integrative health-care can be brought onto the main stage.
About Dr. Mal Evans
Dr. Evans’ passion for the health and wellness industry began through her own journey to recovery. As a result of her experiences, she set her sights on human nutrition, hoping to help others by ensuring that natural health products are backed by sound science.
Since entering the trade in 2007, Dr. Evans has made an indelible mark on the field of nutraceutical science. Throughout her career, she has designed over 200 studies for clients across the world, assessed over 10 million data points, and contributed numerous publications to peer-reviewed journals.
She is also an innovative researcher, having spearheaded a new model for the measurement of nutrients to replace the one-disease-one-drug evaluation of medicines. Her research expertise is vast, encompassing gut health and the microbiome; weight management; cardiovascular health; cognition; menopause; hypertension; arthritis; eye health; oxidative stress; immune function; allergies; dermatology; bioavailability; and more.
Additionally, Dr. Evans is active in political discussions surrounding regulatory guidelines. She is working to optimize the scientific acumen of the nutrition industry and has presented her novel ideas to a number of international regulatory bodies, including the US FDA.
Presently, Dr. Evans is the Chief Scientific Officer of KGK Science. Here, she is responsible for leading our company’s research initiatives. Dr. Evans and her research team have developed an augmented RCT design, as well as scientific models that better encompass the personal nature of natural health products. With this, their work can accommodate the multifaceted nature of dietary supplements — while keeping within regulatory guidelines.