January 5, 2012

Mini (ONE) Step At A Time


This might mark a little watershed moment.  Although I'll admit to a slight dose of skepticism, just for now.  What has happened to make this watershed?  In brief, that a large corporate market player has stepped out from under the wing of pharmaceutical company protectionism and made a bold statement in support of food.

The skeptic asks me how long this might remain the case; whether some backpedalling may occur, and wonders at exactly the motivations, but no matter - for now, this is a Good Thing.

For those outside the little loop world of we tubies, enteral feeding devices come in two types - tubes and 'buttons'.  Most people, especially for children with tubes, opt for buttons, as they don't dangle about the place.  Most buttons are retained by internal water-filled balloons which make them simple to replace at home.  The 'button' has now effectively lionized the market.  The market is controlled by just two companies, with different varieties of their own products.

AMT, makers of the rather popular MiniONE button amongst other enteral devices and one of the two main players has just said this on their website page, under the heading section of Are You New To Enteral Feeding?:

"Wherever possible, real food is still the best thing for feeding people, whether they eat the regular way or through a tube."

This is a BIG call.  I have seen device manufacturers' literature saying that their devices are suitable for enteral formula and blenderized foods before, but never have I seen a corporation, one of the Big Medicine Corps, effectively say to the entire marketplace that food is better than formula if you can do it.  Can they get away with it for long, do you think, before someone at Big Pharma takes countermeasures?  

Of course, such countermeasures have long been in place against using food for tube feeding, ever since a reliable and sanitary product that could be shown on paper to provide a spectrum of nutrients suitable for theoretical human life that could be profitably sold was created.  It's called education.  Doctors and dietitians are busy, time-poor people, who often feel under-rewarded for the long and arduous hours they put in at humanity's service, and despite the canniness of many of them, they are vulnerable to slick messaging from the only people with deep enough pockets to provide most of their free, ongoing postgraduate education - the Pharma Corps.  I do not mean to completely belittle the value of such education - of course they need to keep up with developments and changes in science and best practice, and for the most part it is pharmaceutical company funding that drives the research and innovation.  They also put on very nice dinners (I should know, I've hosted enough of them).  

But food has no such champion.  Big Food certainly throws it weight around the mass market and leans heavily on governments around the world to get their bidding done, but the tubie market is too small.  But we're a VERY lucrative market for Big Pharma.  Also, for AMT and their competition.  Naturally, they want the goodwill of the fastest-growing market segment of the fast-growing tubie market.

Still, I congratulate those at AMT with the stones to make this call, even if for now it is just on one part of their website.  They kindly link directly to our sister site (where many of this bog's posts are reproduced and I am a co-administrator also), blenderizeddiet.net.  

Here's to the notion that this might be a key moment in the opening up of the thinking of the medicalized world of tube feeding.  That one day, we might see food on an equally-respected footing with enteral formulae as an option, as well-supported and accepted if not more so, in the medico-industrial complex.

It's not too much to hope for, is it?

EDIT UPDATE: I have just been informed by AMT's marketing manager Lisa Szpak that they have amended their website, saying that "the wording on the website is what you requested to best describe blenderizeddiet.net".  I understand that Beverly Hanset-Burch, our co-admin there, previously provided them with some information they could use.  Lisa went on to say "AMT does not currently have a position regarding real food versus formula.  Nor are we aware of any movement by pharmaceutical companies or device manufacturers regarding real food versus formula.  I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.  We have modified our website to more accurately represent the subject matter of your website."

Sadly, my fears proved founded then.  They have bailed on us regards any endorsement.



  1. Oh my! Hooray! With my own healthy dose of skepticism, I am still going to celebrate this small success. Now, if only those in charge of telling new tubie eaters how to adjust could see and pass on...

  2. It's still a step in the right direction.