HEALTH

Injection-only therapies for gut issues soon may become oral medicines

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN JOSE, Calif. New injection-only therapies may be available as oral medicines one day. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, including lead researcher Tejal Desai, are looking at ways to enhance the “oral availability” of drugs by designing new delivery devices that will help their absorption in the gut.

Desai plans to present her research at a meeting of the scientific society AVS here on Nov. 12. Working with a Bay-area biotechnology company, she is making devices that are sort of like spiny beads filled with drugs. The spines on these beads are silicon nanowires designed to form an adhesive interface with the tiny, hair-like cilia that cover the cells lining the gut. They are designed to stick like burrs to the cells lining the gut and slowly release their drugs there. Localized in one spot, the drugs have a better chance of diffusing into the bloodstream.

Of the many characteristic traits a drug can have, one of the most desirable is the ability for a drug to be swallowed and absorbed into the bloodstream through the gut. Some drugs, such as over-the-counter aspirin, lend themselves to this mode of delivery. Other drugs cannot be swallowed and must be administered instead through more complicated routes. Insulin, for instance, must be injected.

The reason why insulin and many other drugs cannot be swallowed is that they cannot survive the trip through the digestive tract — wherein they are first plunged into the acid bath of the stomach and then passed into the intestines, which are filled with enzymes designed to break down such molecules as insulin. Aspirin does fine in the gut because its active ingredient is a small chemical that doesn’t get broken down. Conversely, insulin is quickly degraded.

Desai currently is fine-tuning the geometry of the nanowires in order to optimize their adhesion. Her laboratory has done a number of toxicity studies with the beads, and their plan next is to look at how effectively they can deliver proteins, peptides and other macromolecules that are not usually taken orally.

One of the advantages of this approach, Desai said, is that it may be applicable for delivering drugs to other parts of the body as well, including such mucosal tissues as the insides of the nose, lungs or vagina, where the surface cells also are coated with such cilia.

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Blacksmith Brands acquires five McNeil OTC brands, inks deal with The Emerson Group

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Blacksmith Brands on Friday announced that it had completed its acquisition of five over-the-counter consumer brands from McNeil, including Efferdent denture cleaner, Effergrip denture adhesive cream, Luden’s throat drops, Pediacare children’s cough-and-cold medicine and Gentle Vapors waterless vaporizer, and Nasalcrom, a nasal allergy relief spray.

Concurrent with this acquisition, Blacksmith Brands has announced a key business and equity partnership with The Emerson Group. The Emerson Group, a sales and marketing company located in Wayne, Pa., will provide sales and sales management services.

“We are pleased and proud to have The Emerson Group as our partner not only in the operation of our business, but as an equity partner in our new company,” stated Peter Mann, Blacksmith CEO. “We believe that the Emerson Group will be a key catalyst in our plans to grow Blacksmith Brands into a major consumer products company.

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GNC appoints new member to board

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH General Nutrition Centers on Friday named Michael Hines, a senior retailing industry executive, to its board of directors. Hines will also sit on the audit committee, serving as chairperson.

Hines was EVP and CFO of Dick’s Sporting Goods from 1995 to March 2007. From 1990 to 1995, he held management positions with Staples, most recently as VP finance.

As of Sept. 30, GNC has more than 6,700 locations, of which more than 5,300 retail locations were in the United States (including 919 franchise and 1,814 Rite Aid franchise store-within-a-store locations) and franchise operations in 47 international markets.

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