Thursday, November 13, 2008

Legal protection: Warnings at the wrong and right places

This following e-mail correspondence recently took place between a customer of mine and myself:
My customer inquired as follows:
Subject: Ark Naturals Gentle Digest with Prebiotics and Probiotics for Cats & Dogs
I wanted to order Ark Naturals Gentle Digest with Prebiotics and Probiotics for Cats & Dogs for my dog, but am concerned about the below 'caution' statement on your website.
Caution: Consult your veterinarian before using this product in animals with clotting disorders, being treated with anticoagulant medications, diabetes or any metabolic disorder causing hypoglycemia, history of urinary tract stones, known allergies to shell fish. Always consult your vet if you suspect your animal is ill. If your vet is not familiar with this product please contact us or the manufacturer for clinical information.
My vet recommended a microencapsulated pre and probiotic for my dog, and this seemed like a good and healthy choice for him. However, he had calcium oxalate bladder stones, and it seems that this product might not be a good choice. I looked at the Ark Naturals website and a few others, but don't see this similar kind of warning.
Could you explain to me why this product might not be a good choice for a dog with previous calcium oxalate bladder stones?"

I responded:

"Thank you for your inquiry.
Ark Naturals, Inc. is a member of the NASC, The National Animal Supplement Council, a non-profit industry group dedicated to protecting and enhancing the health of companion animals. As such it is a standard procedure for members to display the particular warning you have found on our site with every product a member sells. If you look at any other product on our site coming from Ark, you will find that they all include this particular warning. This applies even to the jerky hip and joint Sea Mobility maintenance treats.
Ark Naturals itself is currently performing web site maintenance, that is the reason why right now this message is not displayed, once they are done it will be there too.
When recommending supplements (or any other nutritional pet product) Ark Naturals as well as we ourselves do in general always recommend consultation with your vet, especially if your pet is suffering from any specific health condition. I personally do not see any reason why Gentle Digest would be causing a problem for your dog with its current condition. It is an all natural product, if I look at the ingredients, I do not see anything wrong with it or anything which possibly could cause a problem. However, we do strongly recommend that you get vet approval. This is basically just to protect ourselves for a, heaven forbid, worst case scenario and in a lawsuit friendly environment as this world has become these days precautions like this just have become standard operating procedure. Just take a look at the bottom of this e-mail, every one of any of my writings comes with a one-page disclaimer, something our lawyers and insurance companies insist upon.
As I said, I personally would not hesitate to give this supplement to my dog if it would be under the same conditions as yours are. But that's me. Your vet is most likely going to agree with me. Just think about it, the warning makes a disclaimer about "allergies to shell fish", there is nothing like that even contained in this particular product. If your vet needs any more technical information please let us know and we will attempt to get more scientific literature.
Now, since you probably have become a little hesitant about the product, if it makes you feel more comfortable, you may want to take a look at other options and Wysong Biotics, Wysong is a company providing a variety of biotic supplements including lots of technical information and is a company I personally "blindly" trust. If you read up a little on the company on our site, I am sure you are going to agree with me.
Thank you and please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you or about any other questions you may have.
Kind regards, Paul Richey, General Manager e-mail: Disclaimer: This e-mail, our website and newsletters, our blogs, forums and any other published form of discussion and all other materials contained herein are intended for general consumer informational purposes only. They reflect our very own opinion only or opinions and information we have collected from other sources we deem knowledgeable on the subject matter. Neither our website and newsletters nor any other materials are intended to constitute, and do not constitute, the practice or furnishing of medical or professional health care advice, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, content, data, software, information, products and or services. Always consult with your qualified provider for medical or health care advice, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, content, data, software, information, products and or services. Any medical or health care provider or other directories or locators including, without limitation, their contents and results, contained on or provided through our website or newsletters or e-mails are intended for general consumer informational purposes only, and do not imply our endorsement of, or that we have any association whatsoever with, such providers."

For the time being the conversation we had was concluded with:
“Hi, Paul,
Thanks so much for your email back. I really do appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. Based on your reply, I feel much better about the product and will bring it up as an option for Fido during his next appointment. I'll also take a look into the Wysong products to see their offerings. I am still trying to educate myself on what he needs to make his diet nutritionally sound.
Thanks, again, for your help.”

Looking at this I wonder and believe there is something fundamentally wrong with the entire picture. There is nothing wrong with the very good question, one the customer was definitely entitled to and rightfully did ask. I greatly appreciate pet owners that really care and want to make sure they do the best they can do for their pets. Neither do I believe there is anything wrong with my answer (of course not, did you expect any different?). What’s wrong is the paradox situation in itself. Look at some prescription drugs not just available and prescribed to ourselves, humans, but also more and more the stuff our vets order to be given to our pets. In those cases I agree, the warnings can’t be big and loud enough. Many of those drugs very often have more negative and quite drastic side affects than positive curing benefits. Yet the warnings are usually in very small and almost unreadable print. But issuing over cautious warnings for treats? Or an all natural supplement not containing any chemicals? I don’t know. I would say that’s definitely overkill. I guess we all became victim of the great scare that we have to worry about being sued. Especially small companies are paranoid about it. Understandably so, a major law suit simply could wipe them out before it even gets rolling. While other, big players for instance in the commercial pet food mass manufacturing sector don’t seem to worry too much about what they are selling us for pets and if or if not our companion animals get ill by taking in their problem products.
Ever since this law suit crazy environment became part of our society, in its early beginnings starting out with unbelievable amounts of penalties being placed on companies, we also hear from our government that they are going to take care of it and try to get rid of the problem. But, it doesn’t matter which political side the government in charge is on, so far that hasn’t happen. Seems as if it is, at least for some people, a pretty lucrative side affect of our daily lives.

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