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Radicle Insights: Five transformative trends in health tech and dietary supplements

Pelin Thorogood and Dr. Jeff Chen of Radicle Science forecast the rise of femtech as part of their 2024 predictions about trends affecting the dietary supplements industry.

6 Min Read
Editorial credit: natalia gh / Shutterstock.com

At a Glance

  • The off-label use of pharmaceutical products like Ozempic for health conditions poses a threat to supplements.
  • Expect FDA crackdowns in 2024, as the introduction of noncompliant products isn’t exclusively an Amazon issue.
  • It's time for the supplements sector to embrace artificial intelligence and adapt because it's here to stay.

From enforcement of the new FTC guidance, the Dietary Supplements Access Act, supply chains and pricing challenges, and authenticity issues plaguing online retailers, 2023 was a roller coaster ride for the supplement industry.

Our prediction is 2024 will not disappoint when it comes to new industry trends, market disruptions, and of course, plenty of controversy. Here’s our take on the top five predictions for 2024 with game-changing potential:

Prediction #1

The rise of femtech: A new era in women's health and nutrition 

In 1977, an FDA policy recommended excluding women of childbearing potential from clinical drug trials. Not until 1993 did FDA explicitly reverse this exclusion. Since then, research on women has increased and extensive growth in women’s health products has occurred.

Globally, about 37% of the femtech market belongs to pregnancy, nursing and reproductive health and contraception subsectors. While products supporting pregnancy and fertility are essential, the real growth story is the potential of everyday dietary supplements being formulated and clinically proven specifically for uniquely female needs like menstrual or menopausal symptoms, or women’s sleep or mood issues. Moreover, the historically neglected category of women’s sports nutrition is now growing faster than ever. For 2024, expect this underrepresented, under-studied, and under-supplemented population to finally have its day of reckoning as it gets the quality and efficacy of dietary supplements that it rightfully requires and deserves.

Prediction #2

The Ozempic effect: Demand for off-label use of pharmaceutical products

We are beginning to see retail implications from the Ozempic weight loss frenzy and the resulting changes in consumer shopping trends. What hasn’t been explored is the potential threat to the supplement industry resulting from the societal acceptance, desire and demand for the off-label use of pharmaceutical products for health conditions, such as weight loss, where consumers historically turned to supplements. Another threat is the demand for secondary access points for similar versions of these drugs: compounding laboratories. While compounding laboratories are regulated by FDA, compounded drugs are not FDA-approved per se. This means FDA does not verify the safety or effectiveness of compounded drugs. Are consumers aware of these risks? Given the growth of compounding labs offering weight-loss medication alternatives and resulting lawsuits, it doesn't seem like it. Why are consumers paying hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars out of pocket each month for these solutions? Because they are perceived to be proven effective with a clinical trial.

Time will tell when it comes to the impact that Ozempic and its knockoffs have on the supplement industry. Until then, grab your popcorn! Let’s see how this unfolds in 2024. Better yet, read the writing on the wall, get in the driver’s seat, head it off at the pass, and secure a trial for your dietary supplement to elevate consumer trust with clinical proof.

Prediction #3

Advancing health literacy: Next-gen tools to enhance supplement adherence

About 92% of supplement users believe dietary supplements are crucial for health. Yet poor adherence to product usage recommendations remains an issue, negatively impacting consumer health benefits and repeat purchases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adherence to medication regimens is a worldwide problem, with only 50% adherence to chronic medications. Adherence to antibiotic therapies is a little better, with 60.8% of survey participants “always adhering to antibiotics recommendations.” Dietary supplements face bigger challenges when it comes to adherence. In 2024, mobile apps and gamification are poised to enable adherence reminders and allow consumers to easily track their personal health journeys, arming them with real-world results that will boost trust and result in repeat purchases and lifetime value. The next-gen tools will benefit both consumer health literacy and brand profits—a true win-win.

Prediction #4

AI: Adapting to your new co-pilot

We are just beginning to get a glimpse into all the ways that artificial intelligence (AI) can be a valuable co-pilot in the workplace and at home. The dietary supplement industry is no exception—contributing to both excitement and fear! Studies show challenges with AI aren't due to its current capabilities, but rather due to the workforce lacking understanding or feeling threatened. A recent study of 4,000 employees and executives across 10 countries found 54% don't know how their companies use AI. The job threat is more perception than reality for now, as AI is used more for automating tasks than replacing entire jobs. However, change is coming as executives estimate 70% of their workforce will use AI for task automation or augmentation by 2028. It’s time to embrace AI and adapt because it's here to stay. As XPRIZE Foundation founder Peter Diamandis, M.D., said, “There will be two kinds of companies at the end of this decade: Those who are fully utilizing AI, and those who are out of business.”

Prediction #5

Expanding FDA oversight: What’s next after the Amazon debacle?

There is no question that Amazon was the poster pin-up for FDA warning letters in 2023. According to a Dec. 20 warning letter addressed to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, FDA purchased products on Amazon’s website that laboratory analysis verified “contained undeclared and potentially harmful active pharmaceutical ingredients.” FDA added Amazon “is responsible for introducing or delivering for introduction into interstate commerce products that are unapproved new drugs” under federal law.

“You are responsible for investigating and determining the causes of any violations and for preventing their recurrence or the occurrence of other violations. It is your responsibility to ensure that your firm complies with all requirements of federal law, including FDA regulations,” the letter to Jassy concluded.

FDA warned Amazon it could face legal action, such as a seizure and/or injunction, if it failed to adequately address the issues raised in the letter.

However, when it comes to compliance, the issue of unsubstantiated claims, undeclared ingredients, and introduction of noncompliant products into interstate commerce isn’t exclusively an Amazon issue. Many of these same products are carried by other brick-and-mortar grocery stores, online retailers and local co-ops. Because of repeat FDA violations, expect a crackdown in 2024. This can include 1) Making Amazon an example and increasing the severity of the violation repercussions, or 2) Extending the precedent to target other online or brick-and-mortar retailers to clarify FDA’s compliance stance once and for all. Compliant brands should take notice and heed the call. When these noncompliant products inevitably get pulled from shelves, this creates more shelf-space opportunities for you!

If that’s not enough, 2024 also brings us the spectacle that is a pivotal election year. The dynamics of dietary supplements and politics will become even more intriguing depending on who controls the Congress and, ultimately, the White House. That said, buckle up because we’re in for an interesting ride.

About the Author(s)

Pelin Thorogood

Co-Founder and Executive Chair, Radicle Science

With a master of engineering and MBA from Cornell, Pelin Thorogood is a tech-executive-turned-impact-entrepreneur with a focus on data and analytics. She is the co-founder and executive chair of Radicle Science, with a mission to close the proof gap between supplements and pharmaceuticals. Thorogood is a trustee and treasurer of UC San Diego Foundation, co-chair of UCSD Innovation and Entrepreneurship Council, and industry scholar for the Cornell Institute of Healthy Futures.

Dr. Jeff Chen

Co-Founder and CEO, Radicle Science

A physician-scientist, Jeff Chen, M.D., is the co-founder and CEO of Radicle Science, which has pioneered a path for non-pharmaceuticals to clinically prove their true effects beyond placebo. He led clinical trials on natural products as the founder of a UCLA research center. After graduating from Cornell, Chen earned his medical degree and MBA concurrently from UCLA, where he is a David Geffen Fellow and UCLA Wolfen Entrepreneur.

 

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