Mythbusters: Summit Joint (and why you won’t ever see it in my barn)

About twice a month, someone on Facebook posts asking, “What does everyone think about Summit Joint Performance?!”

And every single time, my blood pressure rises as I see the MLM-ers flock towards it to promote and sell this product.

And I’ve had enough (and I know I’m not the only one).

So, here goes, debunking some of my favorite SJP arguments.

For starters, Summit = Chondroitin 4 Sulfate = Condranol

“They don’t need FDA approval because it already had it when it was used in humans!”

Oh. When it was used in ophthalmologic surgery (specifically cataract surgery and corneal transplants) as a coating to reduce rejection? Not exactly the same thing.

Per the FDA, it is not approved as an injection for horses. Or any animal. You cannot take a drug and use it for not only an entirely different use, but an entirely new patient population without at least talking to the FDA about it. (Yes, I am well aware this happens – see: sildenafil, spironolactone, previcox – BUT they all had recent drug FDA approvals to begin with, and then were secondarily approved for off label use)

“They’ve done studies in humans showing it works for osteoarthritis!”

Yes, they have done studies in humans! For osteoarthritis! That showed… “the symptomatic benefit of chondroitin is minimal or nonexistent. Use of chondroitin in routine clinical practice should therefore be discouraged.” Whoops. (Reichenbach et al. 2007)

“Oh, I/my trainer/my best friend/my cousin’s boyfriend/this girl I know who wins in the AA hunters uses it and our/their horses look amazing! or “It brought my arthritic horse back from the brink of death in one week!” or “It turned my three-legged lame retiree into a prelim horse!”

We’ll start with the obvious. Anecdotes are not scientific evidence, stories are not science, someone’s post on Facebook is not science. When you purchase something or want to believe something works – ever heard of the placebo effect?

Just a few others, for fun too. We’ve got a solid amount of bandwagon effect – “OMG everyone is using it, guess I should too!” How about confirmation bias? You just spent money on something, want to believe it works, so you’re looking for information to support what you want. It’s subconscious, no matter how objective you tell yourself you are being.

This doesn’t even touch the fact that if, and just IF, it happened to bring Mr. Sparkles back to being sound after you’ve exhausted all the other treatments… what the actual hell is in this drug? Yeah, meth can make me skinny, but at what cost? Or is it masking pain, while making underlying conditions worse? That’s just it: we don’t know.

“The company is totally going to do studies! They’re coming!”

Cool. Let me see them when they’re double-blinded, randomized, done by a reputable academic source and peer reviewed. We’ll talk then. Until that… pass.

“It was developed by a veterinarian though!”

One vet (with a vested financial interest, I might add) deciding to inject something with questionable (and scarce) evidence does not make a drug company. I know many veterinarians who are incredible, smart, great people – I have lots of respect for them (see: my family’s business who is in the veterinary industry). Having a doctorate of veterinary medicine (or any medicine or hell, any doctorate) does not automatically make you a good person, grant you wisdom or instill in you ethics. Go do a google search for veterinarians who have lost their licenses. Go ask your friends about the worst vet they’ve seen or used. Hell, ask your vet (the ones with professionalism will probably decline to say much more, but believe me they have the stories).

That doesn’t make every single one an expert in pharmaceutical research & development, much less production, quality control and manufacturing. Any who try to tell you differently don’t know their personal limitations and I’d stay FAR, far away.

“Oh, it’s a supplement, not a drug.”

Wow a truthful statement! Chondroitin is in fact regulated as a dietary supplement in the United States. But wait. That pesky word, dietary. Per the FDA, “the law defines dietary supplements in part as products taken by mouth that contain a “dietary ingredient.” So, SJP labeling itself as a supplement? Not truthful, nor legal. IF YOU INJECT IT, IT IS A DRUG.

And if we want to be real picky, per the FDA, anything for animal use promoting disease prevention or therapy is technically regulated as… a drug.

“It’s all natural, so it’s safe!”

So is cyanide.

“It’s manufactured in a clean facility though, it’s totally fine.”

This is coming from…? A Facebook comment from someone loosely affiliated with the company. With no verifiable evidence. And when you dig a little deeper – they claim it’s an ISO level 5 clean room, but this requires two to three airlocks, ante-room and single direction airflow. I’ll believe it when I see it. If anyone has an actual certification of their clean room, I’d love to see.

CS4, as a dietary supplement, has many known and reported inconsistencies in purity and chemical composition. The answers SJP gives when questioned? That their CS-4 is from bovine trachea from Argentina and Spain. Which doesn’t even begin to answer how they are ensuring purity, composition and quality control.

“I know we don’t have FDA approval; it’s not because they were turned down, it’s because they haven’t applied. It’s a personal choice to do so.”

I can’t wait to tell my friends in pharmaceutical manufacturing that FDA approval is a personal choice! Going to save them so much money!

The FDA has sent this company multiple letters informing them they were not to be selling injectable drugs without proper approval. Ignorance is no excuse here.

“Just because it’s not FDA approved doesn’t make it any less valuable to us!”

Actually, that’s exactly what it means.

“I’m not sharing testimonials, just my personal experiences with the product.”

Ooops! That Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means - Sabeza HR : Sabeza HR

“B12 is an injectable that isn’t a drug.”

It requires a prescription from a licensed medical professional with a DEA number and has years of sound scientific evidence behind it, not to mention is manufactured and distributed by qualified and credentialed medical sources.

I’m sure we’ll get more in the comments, and I’m downright looking forward to continue to debunk myths and red herring arguments. We haven’t even touched on the sketchy legal records of the founders of SJP or their MLM/Pyramid distribution scheme, because I wanted to specifically debunk the lack of science before more people go sticking needles full of God knows what into their horses, but we can totally do a round 2.

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Equestrian Analytics and Data Analysis

In my non-horsey life (wait, there’s a such thing?), I work for a school of medicine doing business intelligence and analytics. Which is a fancy way of saying I play in Excel and SPSS and Tableau and Power BI all day and try to turn our huge data sets of operational, financial and other things into actionable information. Which is another fancy way of saying: numbers.

I play with numbers. I geek out on numbers. It’s no secret I freaking love medicine – working in healthcare is my favorite (for reals if you ever want to talk hospitals, medicine, health policy, come chat with a girl). Now I get to make decisions based on actual data.

I haven’t been cool enough to start playing with horse numbers yet, but I love reading those who have. So here’s my lit review (lolz no) of blogger and other data analysis type projects as they relate to ponies – and if you have more, send ’em my way, both for my entertainment, but also as a way to assemble data in one place for others who may be interested. These are just what I had saved or stumbled across.

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