Interesting editorial in the Integrative Medicine Journal (found through The Integrator Blog, thank-you John) on the conflict of interest in selling supplements in your practice.

This is one of those conversations where I feel the need to switch hats fairly frequently. Be forewarned.

In the context of the advancement of the industry, I don’t think naturopaths (or any other CAM practitioner) should sell supplements for profit. The conflict of interest is simply too great. Even the most well-meaning of naturopaths who start out selling supplements for any of the “good” reasons – convenience, quality, availability – quickly become accustomed to the cash flow, and become anything but objective.

The business consultant in me, however, says, “Are you crazy? You gotta sell product!” The financial benefits of selling supplements, remedies and other products in your practice are enormous. An established dispensary is a gold-mine, adding tens of thousands of dollars a year to your bottom line. It’s practically free money.

Adding additional revenue sources to your practice that are not tied to your time is one of the key elements in making the transition from a practice to a business – I can’t stress it enough. It separates those who run a business from those who own a job.

In the case of supplement sales, though, it may also separate practitioners along less desirable lines.

Is there a middle ground? I think so. The arguments for having a dispensary are good ones, so why not run your dispensary as a non-profit service? Mark up your product by a modest amount that covers the administrative costs of running an in-house pharmacy, and give your patients the convenience of access, and the security of quality control.

Regardless of your choice, however, educate your patients as to why you’ve made it. Include an information sheet for new patients outlining why you do or don’t have a dispensary, and how it operates. Naturopaths are educators as well as doctors – respect your patients by educating them on relevant business decisions as well as health ones.

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