HEALTH

Category evolves from relief into prevention

BY Richard Monks

With an estimated 60 million people in the United States experiencing heartburn at least once a month, and more than 15 million suffering from it daily, products to treat the condition have become more sophisticated, and the battle for supremacy in the $2.18 billion-a-year antacid tablets market has grown more heated.

(To view the full Category Review, click here.)

According to recent IRI data, Pfizer’s Nexium 24HR, which went from prescription to over-the-counter status in May 2014, has surpassed longtime market leader Procter & Gamble’s Prilosec OTC as the top-selling antacid tablet. Together, the two products account for more than a quarter of the category’s sales.

Suppliers noted that as the science behind antacids continues to evolve and more options become available, the market will flourish.

“Consumers like the ability to try which product works best for them,” a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble said. “We expect this category will continue to be a robust and competitive market.”

Nexium 24HR and Prilosec OTC — both nonprescription versions of medications that got their start behind the pharmacy counter — signify the changing nature of the antacids category. Classified as protein-pump inhibitors, Nexium and Prilosec are preventive medicines, unlike antacid formulas that anchored the category for decades that provided relief after the fact.

Marketers said both fit perfectly with consumers’ desire to take more control over their own health.

“This shift in the way consumers are choosing to manage their health has certainly played a role in the receptiveness of Rx-to-OTC switches,” a Pfizer spokeswoman said. “OTC medicines are an important way to meet consumers’ demands and engage them in their own health care. This is especially important given the evidence shows consumers who are more actively engaged in their health experience better outcomes and lower costs.”

Suppliers say that while the newest stomach relief products help patients take more control over their health care, it remains crucial that people continue to consult with physicians and pharmacists to ensure they are not putting their well-being at risk.

“People should always consult their healthcare provider before taking a new medicine,” the Pfizer spokeswoman stressed. “Even with OTC products.”

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Walgreens, AmeriCares deliver flu shot to 5,000 uninsured patients

BY Michael Johnsen

STAMFORD, Conn. – Uninsured Americans in seven states will have the opportunity to receive flu shots at no cost this fall thanks to a new collaboration between AmeriCares and Walgreens. More than 30 free clinics and community health centers are scheduled to hold flu clinics before the end of October. 
 
Children and adults must be uninsured in order to qualify. More than 5,000 low-income patients of AmeriCares – supported clinics in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont – are expected to benefit.
 
“Vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent the flu,” stated Julie Varughese, AmeriCares medical officer. “Our new flu shot campaign with Walgreens can help ensure thousands of low-income uninsured Americans have access to this important vaccine. We are doing our part to keep families and communities healthy this winter.”
 
The collaboration is part of Walgreens national flu shot voucher program developed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is the fifth year for the initiative, through which Walgreens has provided more than $40 million worth of flu shot vouchers since its inception. 
 
The flu vaccination campaign is also an extension of AmeriCares U.S. Program, which supports more than 800 free clinics and community health centers nationwide with free medicine and supplies. The emergency response and global health organization is the nation’s largest provider of donated medical aid to the U.S. health care safety net, last year delivering $117 million in products to a network of clinics and health centers serving 5 million patients in need. The program helps partner clinics to increase capacity, provide comprehensive care, improve health outcomes and reduce costs for patients.
 
 
 
 
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NPA: Despite study, ER visits due to supplements few and far between

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON – The supplement industry on Wednesday attacked the methodology and findings of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that claimed dietary supplements are responsible for approximately 23,000 hospital visits each year. 

But that doesn't mean supplements are dangerous. Nor does it mean that the use of supplements will put you in the hospital, according to the Natural Products Association.
 
Because what the NEJM study authors do not share is that number, if accurate, represents 0.0001687% of the 136.3 million hospital visits each year, noted the Natural Products Association in a release issued Wednesday evening.
 
"That percentage becomes even smaller when you eliminate the products that are not dietary supplements and exclude the ER visits that resulted from eye drops, ear drops, and other OTC and non-dietary supplement products inaccurately included by the researchers to make their projections for dietary supplements," noted Duffy MacKay, SVP scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition. 
 
The Study, “Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Events Related to Dietary Supplements,” based its findings on data from 63 emergency departments from 2004 through 2013 instead of relying on the official Food and Drug Administration’s Serious Adverse Event Reporting database for dietary supplements, NPA added. 
 
“The laws that regulate supplements require official reporting of adverse events so that the regulators, the health care community and others can review the data and make informed public policy decisions," stated Dan Fabricant, executive director and CEO of the Natural Products Association. "This so-called study excludes that very data, which is more than puzzling because it was written in part by FDA officials who know this,” Fabricant added. “The facts are that adverse events from supplements are extremely low given their widespread usage, and most of these are the result of three factors: accidents, people not consulting with their doctor or misuse of a product combined with other health factors."
 
“The results of this study reinforce that dietary supplements are safe products, particularly when put into context with the number of people — over 150 million Americans — who take dietary supplements every year," MacKay said. 
 
Citing government data, NPA reported there were 3,249 adverse event reports for 2012.
 

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