Over at Bad Science, in a discussion of the recent BBC Horizon program on cosmetics, Ben Goldacre describes what I shall call the Skin Cream Testing Paradox:
But this is the astonishing thing. Other manufacturers don’t submit their creams to a university dermatology lab, or publish academic papers: so these aren’t so much the best results, they’re the only ones. Why? The tests cost just £15,000. Cellular Radiance Cream by La Prairie, for example, costs £340 a pot. Fifty pots would fund one study.
But those tests could bite any company right back: because if they show no effect, then your business is trash; but if they do show an effect, then busybodies wade in to regulate your pharmaceutically-active product. If it was my cosmetics company, I’d stick with the sciencey diagrams and hope for the best.
That is, if testing shows the creams to be effective then the manufacturers are subject to costly regulations, and if they are shown to be ineffective then the manufacturers have to admit that they are conning their customers. Thus the manufacturers have no incentive to fund the testing of the efficacy of their own products. They chose to keep their heads firmly in the sand.
However, what has not yet been pointed out is that each manufacturer has a strong incentive to fund tests on its competitor's products. I wonder if there is a simple way to trigger an outbreak of such competitive cross-testing?