Does the evidence make a difference in consumer behavior? Sales of supplements before and after publication of negative research results

Jon C. Tilburt, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Franklin G. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine if the public consumption of herbs, vitamins, and supplements changes in light of emerging negative evidence. METHODS: We describe trends in annual US sales of five major supplements in temporal relationship with publication of research from three top US general medical journals published from 2001 through early 2006 and the number of news citations associated with each publication using the Lexus-Nexis database. RESULTS: In four of five supplements (St. John's wort, echinacea, saw palmetto, and glucosamine), there was little or no change in sales trends after publication of research results. In one instance, however, dramatic changes in sales occurred following publication of data suggesting harm from high doses of vitamin E. CONCLUSION: Results reporting harm may have a greater impact on supplement consumption than those demonstrating lack of efficacy. In order for clinical trial evidence to influence public behavior, there needs to be a better understanding of the factors that influence the translation of evidence in the public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1495-1498
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008



  • Complementary therapies
  • Dietary supplements
  • Health behaviors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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