Do we need to see our doctor for prescription medicines, or should we allow Mother Nature to treat us naturally with nutraceuticals or a combination of both? Read on to learn about the differences between a Nutraceutical and a Pharmaceutical.
Nutraceuticals vs. Pharmaceuticals – A Walkthrough
What is the difference between Nutraceuticals vs. Pharmaceuticals?
Our health is everything, both mental and physical, so treating and protecting is essential for enjoying our quality of life. Do we need to see our doctor for prescription medicines, or should we allow Mother Nature to treat us naturally with nutraceuticals or a combination of both?
Both of these treatment methods are beneficial to our health, so we may not have to choose between them. So, what are the key differences? Pharmaceuticals are governed by a regulatory authority (FDA, EMEA, etc) and require multiple phases of clinical development to be approved. The trials have to show a benefit in treating specific diseases, as well as being safe for the patient. The clinical benefit must be significantly greater than any adverse side effect that the patient experiences. Nutraceuticals are food-based substances that have a medical benefit and are used for the prevention and treatment of diseases. Unlike pharmaceuticals, “nutraceuticals” are largely unregulated in the United States. They exist in the same category as dietary supplements and food additives by the FDA, under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Depending on the company, they may have supportive scientific data to validate their usage in certain diseases.
The bottom line is that both may be able to help and really dependent on which type of doctor is prescribing the therapy, where the healthcare treatment occurs and of course, the patient’s illness and treatment preference. Here are a few specifics:
MEDICAL vs NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR:
What is the difference between a medical doctor and a naturopathic doctor?
Medical doctors are physicians who work in hospitals, clinics, medical centers, or private practices. They treat patients for diseases/illnesses and spend less time focusing on prevention. Naturopathic doctors also work in the same places and focus on prevention, as well as treatment. The major difference between the two is mainly how they treat patients.
HEALTHCARE SETTINGS – WHICH WILL BE OFFERED?
In a doctor’s office, you will predominantly receive pharmaceuticals and if lucky, some nutraceuticals. They are treating and/or managing a patient’s illness with the goal of stabilizing any health problems. This type of practice has been learned throughout their education, through pharmaceutical sales representatives and Continuing Education accreditation. They are comfortable prescribing medicine to treat diseases and as most have an affiliation with a hospital, the standard of care is pharmaceuticals. In the hospital, the patient should expect pharmaceuticals only.
In some instances, medical doctors may recommend nutraceuticals in addition to healthy lifestyle changes. Pharmacists will also recommend nutraceuticals as part of medical supplementation for a given condition. They have the most knowledge and experience in treating patients with both options.
In a Wellness Center, a Naturopathic doctor’s office, and a Medical Spa; you will be prescribed and treated with nutraceuticals. Patients that visit these facilities have needs that are not being met by prescription medications or just prefer a natural or “alternative medicine” choice versus those of pharmaceuticals. Turning to these professionals, as well as an increasing need to visit Chiropractors, help patients feel better naturally.
Wellness professionals will treat the entire mind and body versus fixing a specific illness or disease. They will recommend specific nutraceuticals to decrease inflammation, remove toxins from your body and bring balance back into your system.
THE PATIENT’s THOUGHTS?
In general, patients prefer a healthier lifestyle and put a premium on their quality of life. As more folks are working from home these days; we are constantly making important decisions on our diet, exercise, and general wellbeing. A comfortable place allows us time to reflect on what’s important and sneak in some quality time in between Zoom calls. Do we consume a heavy breakfast or a smoothie, lunch or playing with the dogs, another call, or a brief nap? Here is where we can address the prevention of poor health and not just how to treat illnesses.
Whether it’s improving your mood, increasing your energy, boosting your immune system, or some needed meditation, all can decrease doctor visits and consumption of prescription drugs. Treating our body naturally is always the way to go and while no single nutraceutical can solve everyone’s problems, they do provide medical benefits with generally, much fewer side effects. This brings me to the final point …
WHAT IS THE SAFER OPTION?
As previously mentioned, pharmaceuticals are highly regulated and require 7-10 years of testing on both animals and humans to gain approval for usage. Pre-clinical, Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III trials monitor both safety and clinical efficacy of the drug. This scientific data is cited in peer-review publications and encompasses the Package Insert upon approval.
Nutraceuticals in most countries do not require scientific data for safety or clinical data for effectiveness and non-supportive marketing claims are not challenged. As these are natural food products that cannot be patented, most companies will not invest time or money in conducting trials. They simply do not want to invest in enhancing science but instead, will pour money into marketing. There are countries and regulatory agencies that will require scientific data to substantiate claims but, in the U.S., that is not the case and nutraceuticals are classified as Dietary Supplements.
Foods that comprise nutraceuticals have been around for thousands of years and are consumed globally on a daily basis thus their safety has been justified far greater than Pharmaceuticals.
THE BOTTOM LINE – WE NEED THEM BOTH
Pharmaceuticals will treat serious diseases and prevent death while nutraceuticals may prevent illnesses, treat diseases, and enhance life. Speak with your Pharmacist about the benefits of taking both and ensure there is no interaction between products.
Finally, align yourself to credible Nutraceutical companies who are actually investing in your well-being via scientific data. These companies are emphasizing patient care and not solely about profit margins.
Richard P. Becker Jr. R.Ph, MBA
Over 25 years of executive experience in both the Pharmaceutical and Nutraceutical industries.