WDDTY: Dr Verkerk, Evil Big Pharma, and Supplements

March 28, 2014 at 10:54 pm (Nutritionism) (, , , )

Dr Robert Verkerk has written an opinion piece for the April 2014 issue of What Doctors Don’t Tell You. Verkerk’s article is essentially a complaint about Big Pharma being involved in selling vitamin pills, and he ends by recommending that people use ‘natural’ forms of supplements not made by Big Pharma as these are never found to be harmful. It’s the synthetic, Big Pharma vitamins that are bad. If there were references in his article to the evidence that backs up his claims, I missed them.

Down the left hand side of the article, Verkerk is described as “the executive and scientific director of  the Alliance for Natural Health International, a consumer group that aims to protect our right to natural healthcare and nutrition”. But that’s not all he does.

Verkerk is also (according to his LinkedIn page), a “scientific and regulatory consultant”.

ANH Consultancy Ltd

2006 – Present (8 years)

ANH Consultancy provides a wide range of services to players in the natural products sector, facilitating particularly innovation, marketing, research and regulatory compliance. We focus particularly on companies with commercial interests in Europe, but also deal with other regions and territories.

I wonder if any of his clients manufacture those natural supplements he promotes to readers of WDDTY? Let’s see if there are any hints on the ANH Consultancy website as to whether they work with the supplements industry… http://www.anhconsultancy.com/

Key Services

  • Sustainable agriculture and organic consultancy
  • Experimental and clinical studies design
  • Natural pest management advice
  • Food, cosmetics and organic regulatory compliance
  • Assistance in avoiding medicinal product or novel foods classification of food and supplement products
  • Reformulation advice
  • Product enhancement advice
  • Product labelling advice
  • Health claims advice
  • Dossier preparation for ingredients and health claims in the EU
  • Design of human and other trials (including bioavailability and efficacy studies)
  • Antioxidant analysis
  • Development of core claims documentation
  • Scientific literature review, analysis and summaries
  • Market research and analysis
  • Sales staff training
  • Brand design and development
  • Business development and identification of new market opportunities
  • E-commerce development

All work can be conducted under confidentiality agreements.

I think the bit where they offer to help supplement manufacturers avoid medicinal product or novel foods classification is a pretty big hint, personally.

I don’t find it particularly interesting that Verkerk works for a firm that assists the supplements industry. I do find it interesting that this wasn’t mentioned on the WDDTY article underneath the bit where they described his other current employment (as well as working with the industry, remember that Verkerk is also a director of a ‘consumer group’). It’s not the possibility of a conflict of interests that is interesting so much as the hiding of that conflict. In a journal, you would normally expect competing interests to be declared but I suppose you can’t expect the same standards to apply to a lifestyle mag. Unless that mag pretends to be a journal.

If you think I’m being petty or mean in picking on Verkerk over one tiny little omission, I should say this isn’t the first tiny little omission of its kind.

When Andrew Wadge wrote a blog for the FSA on detox, Verkerk left a comment in reply. “I am rather surprised to hear that he has chosen to can the entire concept of detox supplements“, said Dr Verkerk. He was, at the time, a director of Ultralife (though this company, like the three others listed, doesn’t appear on his LinkedIn page for some reason). Ultralife made detox drinks, healthy shakes and multi vitamin supplements. In his defence of detox supplements, Verkerk didn’t think to mention his directorship at Ultralife.

Then there’s the amusing fact that Dr Verkerk saw fit to write a product testimonial for Ultralife without making any reference to his connection with the company. Here it is:

“Ultralife is a unique, British company which develops and manufactures its own products to the highest possible standards. Ultralife’s Scientific Advisory Board includes some of the UK’s leading doctors and scientists in the natural health field. The company’s key philosophy is to produce the best possible products with the highest quality ingredients available. The nutritional products contain large numbers of ingredients – in optimum doses and forms – that work synergistically together to maximum effect when coupled with a healthy, balanced diet and adequate hydration. I take the products every day – without them, there’s no way I could manage the hectic pace of my life.”

I’m not sure when that was written. Perhaps it was after Verkerk had left the company?

He’s also featured on their website as an “expert”: By Dr Robert Verkerk, BSc, MSc, DIC, PhD. They don’t mention on this page that he works for / worked for Ultralife. But they do mention his many qualifications. Well, they would – he’s one of their experts. I’m not sure which of these qualifications is most relevant to his work in the health industry. The PhD in agriculture? The MSc in entomology? The BSc in ecology? Probably safest just to list them all. Including the DIC (which doesn’t appear on his LinkedIn page, but is presumably a Diploma of Imperial College).

16 Comments

  1. The truth about the Advertising Standards Authority | said,

    […] accusation is as common as rats in a sewer, especially since Rob Verkerk of the food supplement industry lobby group and private limited company, the Alliance for Natural […]

  2. Alan Henness said,

    How very interesting, James…

    More details of Verkerk, ANH Consultancy, his other directorships and business associates can be found here.

  3. Carl said,

    Avoiding classification! Sounds like “how to sell your junk without being held to anything.”

  4. Alan Henness said,

    “Ensuring the correct classification” might have been more, err..appropriate.

  5. Slipp Digby said,

    Very well spotted.

    I wasn’t even aware of ANH Consultancy Ltd but trawling back though the ANH Europe website there is a brief mention in the innovators club page:-

    http://www.anh-europe.org/ic/about

    “Discounts on services provided through ANH’s sister organisation, ANH Consultancy Ltd, e.g. labelling advice, marketing copy, dossier applications or the provision of scientific data to back up your product claims”

    So basically they use the not for profit charity ANH Europe, WDDTY etc as the public voice to lobby behind the banner of “our work is supported only by donations” whilst ANH Consultancy can provide direct commercial services to the bigger donors identified by the innovators club. Money from the latter of course being trousered by Verkerk, Aldridge & Harris.

    Nice gig.

  6. WDDTY: My Master List | Josephine Jones said,

    […] WDDTY: Dr Verkerk, Evil Big Pharma, and Supplements jdc, Stuff and Nonsense, 28/03/14 […]

  7. Phil said,

    Without declaring your name or interests nothing you say can be taken as impartial. Anonymity has a cost – obscurity

  8. Alan Henness said,

    Said ‘Phil’.

  9. mythbuster said,

    What is your point, medical peer review in the words of two previous editors of the BMJ is worthless due to funding bias. Medical peer review according to the current debacle on statins is notorious about withholding adverse events data, but apparently if you are a vaccine believer this is ok and medically scientific? Thoughts?

  10. mythbuster said,

    “Avoiding classification! Sounds like “how to sell your junk without being held to anything.” Carl said

    Sounds like a flu vaccine scam but they get governments to underwrite them with a ‘get out of jail scam’ ie pandemic panic so no time to test clause. I see no difference in business practice between what you are trying to highlight and the practice of ordinary ‘proper doctor’ medicine.

    Again it’s only ‘proper doctor’ believer myths that keep painkillers for arthritis going as a ‘treatment’. The BNF is far worse than WDDTY has ever been at least they are not funded by the taxpayer.

  11. jdc325 said,

    Mythbuster, you have a track record of claiming people have said things that, when I check, they haven’t actually said. Any chance of a link so I can verify that these editors actually said what you’ve claimed they have said?

  12. mythbuster said,

    http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6412

    Editor of BMJ Fiona Godlee says its bullshit ie statins for all and RCT adverse events data is notoriously under reported.

    In context you and your fellow knob sucker Chris don’t have a cock to stand on criticizing others for having nothing but anecdotes, that jerk side kick Alan Hernia has to be taking the piss too with his nightypants org.

    Can’t find any evidence that WDDTY is funded by the taxpayer. All the millions of pounds of flu vaccine shit and Tamiflu that Roche supplied last year was not only paid for by the governments of many countries you fuck wit it was underwritten so that no legal claims could be made against the companies that made the snake oil.

    Oh the BMJ asked Roche for all the Tamiflu data to do a post pandemic audit on efficacy. After months of delay the official reply was – we’ve lost it!

    So what have you checked and found was not said then j20? or do we have to take the word of a weasel worker and find out that your links don’t support even your underpants.

    And to think, you, as a swine flu believer have the audacity to think your point of view is worthy of critical merit!

    Catholic

  13. jdc325 said,

    Mythbuster, you said:

    What is your point, medical peer review in the words of two previous editors of the BMJ is worthless due to funding bias.

    I asked for a link so I could verify this claim. You have provided a link to something Fiona Godlee wrote that doesn’t even use the term “peer review”, let alone refer to it as “worthless”. So, you don’t have anything, in the words of two BMJ editors, saying that peer review is worthless. Why then did you pretend that you did?

    It did refer to a concern that the trials included in a meta analysis of statins were all funded by manufacturers. The reason we know this is because funding of trials has to be declared, and rightly so. Any competing interests of the authors must be declared too. Now, earlier on you asked what my point was. My point was that WDDTY & Verkerk did not declare a competing interest that was relevant to the article. I’m sorry you were unable to understand the point of my blog post. I suggest trying to read posts carefully in future before commenting on them. If you know what they’re about, then you might be able to contribute something relevant and interesting to the debate. I mean, it’s unlikely but it’s certainly possible.

  14. mythbuster said,

    It also points out that RCT trials notoriously under report adverse events. Surely the point of a ‘trial’ is not to cherry pick data to make turds shine.

    I think until the medical world has its house in order it is not different to the people you bizarrely choose to have a go at. Unless of course you are a ‘proper doctor believer’.

    I would say double standards but I don’t think you would know what that means.

  15. jdc325 said,

    What it doesn’t point out is that medical peer review is worthless, which is what you claimed. You said two BMJ editors, in their own words, had said this. You’ve linked to something one BMJ editor wrote that doesn’t include the statement you’ve claimed they’ve made. You haven’t mentioned the other BMJ editor, let alone linked to their statement that peer review is worthless. Probably because it doesn’t exist.

    This is something you have done repeatedly across various threads. You make a claim that someone, somewhere has said something. When asked for evidence you either don’t bother providing any or you link to something that doesn’t support your claim. Do you genuinely expect anyone to take your claims at face value when you have such a poor track record?

  16. Older but not healthier » WWDDTYDTY said,

    […] WDDTY: Dr Verkerk, Evil Big Pharma, and Supplements (jdc325.wordpress.com) […]

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