A survey of supplement users carried out by US-based independent tester ConsumerLab.com reveals that most avoid taking prescription drugs because they are afraid of the potential side effects, and not because of the prohibitive cost as had previously been believed.
The survey was carried out on behalf of ConsumerLab.com by Hartman Interactive, the online division of The Hartman Group, a market research and consulting firm specialising in the health and wellness marketplace. The results are based on 3,226 responses from members of ConsumerLab.com's e-Mail Alert List. Among the health conditions evaluated, those for which supplements were most often taken were general health (67 per cent), colds (53 per cent), osteoarthritis (39 per cent), energy enhancement (37 per cent), cholesterol-lowering (29 per cent), cancer prevention (28 per cent), allergy, (27 per cent) and weight management (25 per cent). Fifty-four per cent of respondents used supplements for five or more conditions.
The survey also showed that only 36 per cent of respondents had used a prescription medication to treat or prevent a condition for which they used a supplement. Prescription use was highest (87 per cent) for treating or preventing asthma, while few respondents had used prescription drugs to treat conditions including Alzheimer's disease, prostate enlargement, and congestive heart failure.
The most common reason for not using a prescription drug was the fear of side-effects (33 per cent), followed by fears over the safety (25 per cent). Only 8 per cent and 4 per cent of respondents respectively said they avoided prescription drugs because they were not effective or not affordable, although the results varied somewhat by specific medical condition.
The ConsumerLab.com survey also revealed that diet modification was very common among supplement users, employed, for example, by more than three-quarters of those using supplements for general health, cholesterol lowering, cancer prevention, weight management, heartburn/reflux, hypertension, muscle development, congestive heart failure.
Satisfaction with supplement brands was generally high, ranging from 97 per cent to 63 per cent of consumers being highly satisfied with the brands they used. The perceived quality of the ingredients was found to be the most important determinant of consumer's overall satisfaction with brands. The highest rated brand was Nutrilite (a multi-level marketing brand), while other brands top-rated in their market categories were Nature's Way (retail brand), CVS (store brand) and Puritan's Pride (catalogue brand).
To help select brands, seventy-three percent of respondents indicated that they used information from ConsumerLab.com. The next most popular sources of information for selecting a supplement brand were magazines (40 per cent), product labels (38 per cent), books (35 per cent), friends/relatives (34 per cent), and other Internet sources (30 per cent).