$24-Billion Savings through Supplement Interventions Says Lewin Group

Summary: Integrator columnist Michael Levin recently had occasion to read a series of reports, prepared by the internationally-known health care consulting firm, The Lewin Group. The subject: possible cost impact of pro-actively using a few dietary supplement interventions for a handful of conditions. The outcomes were compelling. Levin argues that this kind of work, funded by the dietary supplement industry, exemplifies forward thinking collaborative effort needed to advance the integrative and natural health fields. The story of this strategic funding will be familiar to chiropractic …

Michael Levin, Health Business Strategies

Last week, I had an opportunity to participate in a Samueli Institute event in which Ian Coulter, PhD, spoke on some new directions for developing cost outcomes for integrative practices. Coulter is a researcher who splits his time between a vice presidency for integrative medicine with the Samueli Institute, and a position as a senior analyst with the Rand Corporation. Coulter reminded us, in the course of his presentation, that the 1992 Rand study which proved a significant breakthrough for spinal manipulation was funded, in fact, by the chiropractic profession.

I returned to this submission from Integrator columnist Michael Levin. The subject is a study by a well-known, international consulting group, looking at dietary supplement, and funded by an industry organization. Levin argues that this collaboration exemplifies what needs to be done to develop interest in the kind of cost benefits which may come from appropriate complementary and integrative interventions.


Research on Dietary Supplement Health Impacts and Cost Offsets:
> $24
Billion Savings

– Michael D. Levin, Health Business Strategies

Unlike other integrative medicine stakeholders, the dietary supplement industry
raised sufficient monies to fund important research into health impacts and
cost-offsets associated with certain nutritional interventions.

The expert team
hired to study the economic impacts of these nutritional interventions was The
Lewin Group
The Lewin Group is a premier national health care and human services policy research
Other clients of the Lewin Group include governments, industries and
associations. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) used the Lewin Group for some of his
healthcare policy initiatives. The Lewin Group notes on its site that it was:

“… commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education
Alliance to (1) critically review the research literature for two
dietary supplements for which an association has been shown between
intake of the supplement and reduced risk of a disease that can lead to
a loss of an older person’s independence, and (2) develop estimates of
potential health care savings that could result from daily use of the
supplement. Supplement/disease combinations in this study are omega-3
fatty acids and coronary heart disease, and lutein/zeaxanthin and
age-related macular degeneration.”

The Lewin Group estimated that the total potential healthcare savings for the
dietary supplement interventions studied to be approximately $24
billion over five years.

Though these reports – I’ve read them – were commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education
(DSEA) and funded largely by industry, the detailed analysis appears both exhaustive
and objective. The following excerpts from their 2007 press release
cite key study findings:

  • Calcium with vitamin D: Appropriate use of calcium with Vitamin D for the
    Medicare population shows potential avoidance of approximately 776,000
    hospitalizations for hip fractures over five years, as well as avoidance of
    stays in skilled nursing facilities for some proportion of patients. The
    five-year (2008-2012) estimated net cost associated with avoidable
    hospitalization for hip fracture is approximately $16.1 billion.

  • Folic Acid: If just 11.3 million of the 44 million American women who are
    of childbearing age and not taking folic acid, began taking 400 mcg. of folic
    acid on a daily basis neural tube defects could be prevented in 600
    babies, saving as much as $344,700,000 in the first year. Over five
    years, taking into account the cost of the supplement, $1.4 billion could
    potentially be saved.
This is an excellent example
of an industry pulling together

to fund research
into health
impacts and cost-offsets.”

– Michael Levin

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The estimate of the potential five-year savings in
    health care expenditures resulting from a reduction in the occurrence of
    coronary heart disease (CHD) among the population over age 65 through daily
    intake of approximately 1800 mg of omega-3 is $3.2 billion. Approximately
    374,301 hospitalizations and associated physician fees due to CHD could be

  • Lutein with zeaxanthin: Through daily intake of 6-10 mg of lutein with
    zeaxanthin, it is estimated that $3.6 billion could be saved over 5 years by
    helping people with age related macular degeneration avoid dependency. Across
    the five-year period, approximately 190,927 individuals could avoid the
    transition to dependence either in the community or a nursing facility that
    would accompany a loss of central vision resulting from advanced AMD.

A DSEA representative concluded: “The impressive results of the study provide clear evidence of the benefit of
dietary supplements. As an industry, it is important that we
fund studies like this and publicize results, so that consumers and legislators
realize the value of supplements.”
This is an excellent example of an industry pulling together to fund research
into health impacts and cost-offsets. Doing this type of work provides economic
basis for meaningful discussions concerning insurance and reimbursement, both
of which are needed to penetrate large populations. Hopefully, these research
initiatives will continue, and we will soon see similar research initiatives
from other stakeholder groups. Doing so can only advance our mission to improve
the public health while reducing healthcare costs.

Update: On June 10, 2008, the DSEA announced their merger with the
Natural Products Foundation
, a 501 (c) 3 industry-supported organization
designed to “enhance and promote the integrity of natural products through
quality, science and education.”
This bodes well for continued research far into the future.

Michael D. Levin

Health Business Strategies
12042 SE Sunnyside Road
Clackamas, OR 97015
503-753-3568 (direct)
503-698-7565 (fax)

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Written by John Weeks

Explore Wellness in 2021