Because Protandim has 5 US patents (and 1 in Australia and 1 in China), the formula for Protandim is public. The exact ingredients are known. The claim has been made that Protandim is made up of inexpensive ingredients and the customer is being ripped-off by selling them in a blended formula we know as Protandim. The purpose of this article is to debunk this, and provide some perspective.
Each ingredient of Protandim (Tumeric, Milk Thistle, Green Tea, Bacopa and Ashwaganda), are all plants. These plants, have chemical constituents known as phytochemicals. The patent for Protandim calls for a certain ratio of these phytochemicals as found in each ingredient, and the ingredients (except Ashwaganda) are plant extracts. For example Bacopa must have a certain amount of bacosides, and milk thistle a certain amount of silymarin etc. Just obtaining “the herb”, or even an herbal extract, may or may not be the same thing. So just because a blogger can link to cheap ingredients as replacements, they may not be the same thing. This is because every herbal constituent in Protandim is measured to contain the right amount of these phytochemicals.
In a peer reviewed study from way back when Protandim was sold in stores, a study by McCord showded Protandim was found to have a synergistic affect (take a look at this study, and review the carrts . Meaning the individual ingredients on their own, are not powerful as the 5 combined. Not even close. Furthermore, Dr McCord has said the individual ingredients combined in other ways, do not provided the same benefit. See this video, at time index 43:53. I suppose the critical thinker might suggest that Dr McCord is making it all up, however that level of skepticism has been vetted by 14 peer reviewed studies, that have validated Protandim’s effectiveness in lowering oxidative stress, and validated by third party review, suggesting that Protandim is the most powerful Nrf2 activator on the market, by several times over.
Testing and Manufacturing
Watch this video about the manufacturing process of Protandim. There is more to making of Protandim that simply mixing stuff together. Will a customer who who makes their own, conduct tests on the ingredients for Nrf2 activation? Not likely. Will they property validate the purity of the ingredients for safety on a regular basis? Most likely not. It takes a lot of work to “make your own”. Something people think can be accomplished by simply blending ingredients, or most likely just taking the same 5 ingredients in another form.
Time and Money
But like most things in life, it comes down to time and money. Some people may find it beneficial to make their own Protandim, simply by doing the due diligence, to procure the same exact extracts, mix and combine the ingredients, and possibly even validate their own version with testing. They could save some money, but in the end, they won’t really save that much, because time is money. I do think its possible, if you get the same extracts, and quality, mix them, test them etc. But MOST people who claim Protandim is cheap ingredients are not making their own, they simply use this as an excuse to not buy it. If they’re doing so to sell their own version of Protandim, they do so illegally, the patents protect against such things. It’s really all a matter of perspective. Hundreds of millions of people daily, drive into a Starbucks, and purchase a $4 cup of coffee. Is Starbucks ripping off their customer? No. The customer simply enjoys the convenience of a good cup of coffee, even if they could have made it themselves for a fraction of the cost. This sort of thing happens all the time. One example I love is Niaspan, a pharmaceutical grade Niacin “drug”. Niacin (Vitamin B3) is commonly purchased at a fraction of the cost of Niaspan.
Profit is a good thing
For those involved in the business in LifeVantage, be very thankful there is margin and profit in Protandim. Without it, how would the company afford customer service, legal, compliance, marketing and product development, support, infrastructure and more. Products with low margins severely limit the ability for a company to offer compensation to its sales channel or even deliver properly that product or service to market. Old documentation reports the material cost of Protandim. And it seems dated. I don’t know the costs, however material costs is only a part of the costs. Because LifeVantage is a public traded company the latest financials are reported here. It indicates the ending 3 months of the fiscal year 2012, show a total sales of 52.8 million in sales, where the cost of those sales (this includes product costs) is 7.8 million, with 45 million in profit. Other costs not included in “cost of sales” include sales and marketing (commissions), administrative, salaries, R&D, and operating expenses. That means if these numbers are correct, a $40 dollar of Protandim costs the company about $6 to make. That’s about on par in the supplements as a whole.
A Matter of Perspective
Most major drug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars getting a drug to market. Largely the cost is high to verify the drug is not harmful, because synthetic chemicals are not a natural food source, and tend to have severe side effects that must be vetted through extensive research. Because of this these drugs cost a lot of money to get to market. Most consumers are insulated from the real cost of such drugs by insurance or medicaid. When a drug treatment costs thousands of dollars a month, when the cost to make the drug only costs a small fraction to have it made, does the customer cry foul or scam? No. They simply take the drug under what they feel is the best professional advise available. Most of the time these drugs are life saving. My point isn’t to besmirch the drug industry, but rather to point out that its all a matter of perspective. For example, if there is value in a $40 bottle of Protandim, then buy it. Is there anything on the market proven to do what it does? Does the customer really care the product cost to manufacturer if they get value? While LifeVantage makes no medical claims (infact by law they cannot make medical claims), a recent claim from an third party noted that Protandim was more powerful of a Nrf2 activator than BG-12, a new drug being used to treat Multiple Sclerosis. BG-12 treatments will cost a patient tens of thousands of dollars per year. Again if there is value in Protandim then customers will buy it. This actually is a very important statistic. 80% of customer sales from LifeVantage are made to regular customers, not to distributors.
Protandim is a Nrf2 activator. There are two other natural Nrf2 activators on the market, both of these products are not validated by any peer review, so some might claim that the competition is weak because of this, but it is none the less, competition. Nuley is $39.99 for a month supply. Xymogen for a 2 month supply is $98. Protandim is priced in the same range as these products. I suspect that these products have 100% – 200% markup in profit as well. There are other network marketing companies that have products that claim to be in the same arena (they are not Nrf2 activators however). One is Product B from Isagenix. It sells for $99 for a month supply. There is a product that claims to reduce oxidative stress by adding oxidative stress in the form of redox sensors, it is made by Asea, and costs $65 for a month supply.
Health Stores and Herbalists
Most of the objections I’ve heard of (on this topic), come from health food stores or herbalists, who will say: “well I can make it for you and it will save you money”. After reading this above, that’s true, if they do it right. But Protandim also has competitors who claim they can “cure your problem”, with their herbs, or that “they can reduce oxidative stress too”. And maybe that’s true, or maybe not. But it is competition to them none-the-less, and MOST retailers really have a disdain for network marketing companies, they won’t be very objective about Protandim’s ingredients, or their inability to create the same thing at the same price or lower.
Cost of Manufacturing
From what we know, (because LifeVantage publishes their financials), from the fiscal 2012 annual report here http://yahoo.brand.edgar-online.com/DisplayFiling.aspx?dcn=0001193125-12-386589 (see INCOME STATEMENT), there was 126 million in gross product sales. cost of sales was 18 million, that makes for a net profit (before salaries, R&D, commissions and overhead), 108 million. That means that the product costs account for about 14% or one bottle of Protandim could cost about $5 to make. This is about right because we know that it costs 52% in commissions, leaving about 30% margin for the company. Of course these are estimates, but with some degree of math averaging, this fits in the ball park of most retail products on the market as well.