HEALTH

Matrixx seeks to increase brand awareness with more advertising

BY Michael Johnsen

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Matrixx plans to step up its advertising this cough-cold season, converting one-time nasal swab users into purchasers of one of several Zicam oral remedies, Bill Hemelt, acting president and COO, told shareholders during the company’s annual meeting held Wednesday.

“The landscape for the company has changed dramatically as a result of the June 16 [Food and Drug Administration] warning letter,” Hemelt said, referencing the agency’s written concerns that Matrixx’ nasal Zicam products could be associated with an increase in anosmia (the loss of the sense of smell).

Matrixx voluntarily pulled those products off the shelf following that warning letter, though Hemelt noted that so far 10 federal judges had dismissed similar claims prior to the FDA letter.

Accompanying the increased advertising support, Matrixx also plans on implementing a sizeable retail promotional support. “We worked with our retail partners to modify [cough/cold sets] to feature oral Zicam products,” Hemelt said. Hemelt thanked the company’s retail partners for their collective support.

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Scientists uncover immune system’s role in bone loss

BY Michael Johnsen

LOS ANGELES A new UCLA study sheds light on the link between high cholesterol and osteoporosis and identifies a new way that the body’s immune cells play a role in bone loss, the University announced Monday.

Published Aug. 20 in the journal Clinical Immunology, the research could lead to new immune-based approaches for treating osteoporosis, authors of the study noted. Affecting 10 million Americans, the disease causes fragile bones and increases the risk of fractures, resulting in lost independence and mobility.

Scientists have long recognized the relationship between high cholesterol and osteoporosis, but pinpointing the exact mechanism connecting the two has proved elusive.

“We’ve known that osteoporosis patients have higher cholesterol levels, more severe clogging of the heart arteries and increased risk of stroke. We also knew that drugs that lower cholesterol reduce bone fractures, too,” explained Rita Effros, professor of pathology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “What we didn’t understand was why.”

In the study, UCLA researchers focused on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and examined how high levels of oxidized LDL affect bone and whether a type of immune cell called a T cell plays a role in the process.

Using blood samples from healthy human volunteers, the team isolated the participants’ T cells and cultured them in a dish. Half of the T cells were combined with normal LDL – the rest was combined with oxidized LDL. The scientists stimulated half of the T cells to mimic an immune response and left the other half alone.

“Both the resting and the activated T cells started churning out a chemical that stimulates cells whose sole purpose is to destroy bone,” Effros said. Called RANKL, the chemical is involved in immune response and bone physiology.

When Effros and her colleagues tested the T cells of the mice on the high-fat diet, they discovered that the cells acted differently than those of the mice on a normal diet.

The T cells switched on the gene that produces RANKL. The chemical also appeared in the animals’ bloodstream, suggesting that the cellular activity contributed to their bone loss.

“It’s normal for our T cells to produce small amounts of RANKL during an immune response,” explained Effros. “But when RANKL is manufactured for long periods or at the wrong time, it results in excessive bone damage.”

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CDC, Reckitt Benckiser develop site to promote good health, hygiene

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK On the surface, this news highlights how serious the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention take that “prevention” piece of their title. The fact of the matter is the novel H1N1 influenza pandemic, the virus that ran rampant in the spring, giving the United States a little taste of what could come, will be the top billing this coming cough-cold-flu season. To date, the virus has not mutated in the past few months as it ran its course through the influenza season of the southern hemisphere, which means that Americans can expect more of the same here — an influenza strain that produces illness severity comparable to the seasonal flu but that favors younger people because they have no antibodies in reserve against this novel H1N1 virus.

Younger people not only means the twenty- and thirtysomethings in the workforce, it also means their school-age children. And given that children are oftentimes blamed for spreading colds and flu in a typical year, it only goes to reason that children may be a good spreader of the H1N1 pandemic virus, too. With this partnership, the CDC is making a robust effort in educating both children and their parents in proper cold/flu etiquette, because the cheapest way to nip this bug from the get-go is to inhibit its spread.

Going one level deeper, it also shows how quickly today’s administration will turn to private business in an attempt “to get things done.” The assumption here is that it’s not the CDC putting up the funds to launch this Web site, but Reckitt Benckiser. And in turn, Reckitt Benckiser gets a very credible driver around its Lysol disinfectant brand.

That bodes well for retail pharmacy and the healthcare companies that supply them. Because it bears a recognition what the private sector brings to the table — ready access to consumers who may be more apt to pay attention when the credibility of government agencies like CDC is married to the credibility associated with a venerable brand. Today it’s Reckitt Benckiser’s Lysol. Tomorrow it could very well be CVS or Walgreens.

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