HEALTH

Mayo Clinic study notes St. John’s wort ineffective in treating IBS

BY Allison Cerra

ROCHESTER, Minn. A Mayo Clinic research study published in the January issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that St. John’s wort is not an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.

While antidepressants are frequently used to treat IBS, to date, no study has examined the success of using the herbal supplement St. John’s wort in treating IBS.

“Our study investigated if herbal antidepressants such as St. John’s wort could benefit irritable bowel disease patients,” says Yuri Saito, M.D., M.P.H., gastroenterologist and lead physician scientist on the study. “Several of the chemical neurotransmitters that are in the brain are also in the colon. Therefore, it’s been thought that antidepressants may affect sensation in the colon in a similar way to how they affect sensation in the brain. Our goal was to evaluate the usefulness of St John’s wort in treating IBS.”

In this placebo-controlled trial, 70 participants with IBS were randomized where half the patients received St. John’s wort and the other half received a placebo for three months. In all, 86 percent of the participants were women, and the median age was 42 years. After three months of observing symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation and bloating, Mayo researchers found that the placebo group had a better response than the group taking the herbal supplement, St. John’s wort.

“Because people tend to struggle with IBS for several years, patients are really looking for inexpensive, over-the-counter treatments such as St. John’s wort,” Saito said. “Unfortunately, our study showed that St. John’s wort was not successful in helping IBS patients.”

St. John’s wort is an herbal supplement derived from the St. John’s wort plant. It has been shown to be helpful in such several medical conditions as depression, as well as other pain syndromes. Research has shown it to be as effective as conventional, prescription antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression.

“The challenge with IBS is that there is no cure, no one treatment tends to be wholly effective and some treatments come with significant side effects,” Saito said. “However, well-designed studies of herbal supplements are important so that physicians and patients can make informed decisions about which supplements to recommend or try. Studies of alternative treatments are generally lacking and patients are forced to use a ‘trial and error’ approach to over-the-counter treatments for their IBS.”

IBS is a common disorder that affects the colon and commonly causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. Approximately 58 million people struggle with IBS, mostly women.

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HEALTH

Tylenol Arthritis caplet recall becomes a bigger headache

BY Rob Eder

NEW YORK Johnson & Johnson has expanded its voluntary recall of Tylenol Arthritis caplets in the wake of consumer reports of a moldy smell that can cause nausea and sickness. The recall now includes all product lots of the Arthritis Pain caplet 100-count bottles with the red EZ-Open cap.

Prior to this, the company had recalled five lots of the product in November, citing similar reasons, with user complaints of nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

According to J&J, the odor is coming from trace amounts of 2,4,6-tribromoanisole — a chemical used to treat wooden pallets that transport and store packaging materials —  which is believed to be the result from the breakdown of another chemical used in the manufacture of the drug.

To date, the side effects have been “temporary and non-serious,” although the health effects of the compound have not been studied.

The recall only affects the specific lots reported, and does not extend to any other Tylenol pain products.

J&J is moving its production of Tylenol Arthritis Pain caplets 100-count to another plant, and plans to reintroduce the product in January.

J&J is advising consumers seeking a refund or replacement to call (888) 222-6036.

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CVS Caremark appoints new president of PBM business

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK If there was any doubt as to the value CVS Caremark places on personalized medicine, that doubt no longer should exist.

Clearly, the company believes that one area its PBM can create real value for payers is within pharmacogenomics or personalized medicine. Not only has CVS Caremark tapped Per Lofberg, co-founder of genetic benefit management company Generation Health, to serve as the PBM president, but it also has upped its stake in Generation Health.

Generation Health will continue to operate as a separate business from CVS Caremark, but CVS Caremark will have financial and strategic ties to the company, as well as representation on its board of directors.

The moves are undoubtedly in line with CVS Caremark’s efforts to move well beyond a traditional retail pharmacy role and into a pharmacy healthcare service company aimed at improving health outcomes and lowering healthcare costs.

PGx clinical services are expected to be introduced to CVS Caremark’s PBM clients in the second quarter 2010, and will initially focus on testing programs for medications in the areas of oncology, cardiovascular medicine and HIV, among others. In addition, the partnership opens the door for future programs to test for certain hereditary diseases.

According to Generation Health, genomic testing represents a $3 billion market that is growing 45% annually. There are at least 100 new tests added each year and they are usually priced at several hundred dollars each.

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