While most people are able to eat a normal diet, many of those managing distinct nutritional requirements related to a disease or health condition rely on medical foods. Medical foods help patients meet their nutritional needs, often improving nutritional and health outcomes and quality of life. A recent publication in Current Developments in Nutrition, titled “Medical Foods: Science, Regulation, and Practical Aspects. Summary of a Workshop,” shares the historical and regulatory context of medical foods and perspectives on their role in the future.
Medical foods help patients manage their nutritional needs, yet it can be very difficult for patients to have access to them. In August 2019, the Healthcare Nutrition Council (HNC), in partnership with the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), held the Medical Foods Workshop: Science, Regulation, and Practical Aspects. The workshop discussions focused on:
- Patient and healthcare professional considerations for and benefits from medical foods.
- Opportunities for product innovation and future research. Real-world examples were discussed for enteral tube feeding, surgery and trauma, intractable epilepsy, diabetes, renal disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.
- The role of clinical guidelines for developing and use of medical foods.
- The use of medical foods in clinical practice under medical supervision.
- The statutory term distinctive nutritional requirements.
- The regulatory term modification of the diet alone.
- Differentiation of medical foods from foods for special dietary use.
“The objectives of our workshop were to advance the dialogue on the scientific and regulatory status of medical foods in the U.S., drive consensus on terms and definitions for medical foods, and ultimately help improve patient access to these important products,” said Robert Rankin, Executive Director of HNC. “It was extremely important that the workshop included a variety of stakeholders, encompassing patients, clinicians, government officials, and the medical food industry. We have more work ahead to improve the landscape for medical foods, assuring that the regulatory framework fosters research, innovation, and development for these important products as well as assuring patients have access to products which improve their clinical care.”
The workshop proceedings are available online at https:/
About the Healthcare Nutrition Council (HNC): HNC is an organization representing the manufacturers of nutrition support products, specifically enteral nutrition (EN) formulas, parenteral nutrition (PN) solutions, supplies and equipment. HNC member companies are committed to improving health by advancing policies that address and raise awareness of nutrition and its impact on patient outcomes and healthcare costs. This includes promoting nutritional screenings, diagnoses, assessments, and appropriate and timely clinical nutrition interventions while maintaining patients’ access to specialized nutrition support products and services throughout the continuum of care. For more information about HNC, please visit healthcarenutrition.org.