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/
- 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).