HEALTH

Novartis acquires 25 percent of Alcon from Nestle; mulls 52 percent more

BY Michael Johnsen

BASEL, Switzerland Novartis on Monday announced the acquisition of up to 77 percent in the eye care company Alcon, giving the company majority ownership in a deal that could be worth as much as $39 billion by the time its done.

“This acquisition furthers our strategy of accessing high-growth segments of the healthcare market while balancing inherent risks,” stated Novartis chairman and chief executive officer Daniel Vasella. “The strategic fit of Alcon and Novartis is excellent with our complementary product portfolios and R&D synergies. Eye care will continue to grow dynamically as there is a growing unmet medical need driven primarily by the world’s aging population.”

The agreement comes in two steps. First, Novartis will acquire a 25 percent stake in Alcon from Nestle for $143.18 per share, or approximately $11 billion, with closing expected in the second half of 2008. In an optional second step, Novartis has exclusive right to acquire Nestle’s remaining 52 percent stake for a fixed price of $181 per share between January 2010 and July 2011, a transaction that would total approximately $28 billion. According to the agreement, Nestle has the right to require Novartis to buy this stake.

Alcon is a world leader in eye care with its pharmaceutical, surgical and consumer eye care products, and boasts a robust development pipeline, Novartis stated, citing the company’s strong strategic fit with Novartis’ own contact lens and ophtha pharmaceutical businesses.

Alcon recorded 2007 annual sales of $5.6 billion, operating income of $1.9 billion and net income of $1.6 billion. Specifically, Alcon recorded surgical sales (medical devices and products for ophthalmic surgery) of $2.5 billion in 2007, representing an increase of 13 percent. Pharmaceutical sales totaled $2.3 billion, up 15 percent, while consumer sales, which includes the Opti-Freee line of contact lens care products, over-the-counter eye drops and ocular vitamins, climbed 15 percent to $800 million.

Under the terms of the transaction, Cary Rayment, who has been with Alcon since 1989 will remain as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Alcon.

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HEALTH

NAD supports some PinnoThin claims

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus on Thursday announced that Lipid Nutrition B.V. North America has provided sufficient support for certain advertising claims made for the company’s PinnoThin dietary supplement.

NAD has recommended, however, that certain claims be modified or discontinued.

Following its review of a random double-blind study provided by Lipid Nutrition, NAD determined that the advertiser did not have a reasonable basis for its claim that it has “clinically proven” that PinnoThin promotes the feeling of satiety, suppresses the desire to eat or provides control over one’s appetite. However, NAD did determine that the advertiser could support a more limited claim that PinnoThin “may help to” promote a feeling of fullness, reduce prospective food intake, suppress the desire to eat, provide control over one’s appetite or increase the release of GLP-1 (a hormone).

NAD noted that the advertising in question is directed to other marketers and manufacturers of dietary supplements, rather than consumers. NAD noted that it is mindful that businesses purchasing PinnoThin from Lipid Nutrition will likely be relying on Lipid Nutrition’s claims in determining what advertising claims can be supported for products containing this ingredient in future consumer-directed advertising.

Lipid Nutrition told NAD that PinnoThin is refined pine nut oil derived from pine nuts mainly of the Korean pine tree. The oil of Korean pine nuts is especially rich in very long chain fatty acids, such as pinolenic acid. According to the advertiser, a large body of scientific evidence demonstrates that long chain fatty acids stimulate the release of the hormones cholecystokinin (CCK) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GPL-1), promoting a feeling of fullness or satiety.

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, noted that it disagreed with certain of NAD’s conclusions. “Nonetheless, Lipid Nutrition will take the NAD’s conclusions and recommendations into account when developing future advertising,” the company stated.

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FDA approves Mark of Fitness’ RevitaLeg massager

BY Michael Johnsen

NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. Mark of Fitness received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its RevitaLeg portable compression massager for the temporary relief from muscle aches and pains and the promotion of an increase in circulation.

Mark of Fitness touted the product’s portability—it’s no bigger than a soda can—and suggested that air travelers may be a key demographic, because long flights can lead to the development of deep vein thrombosis. According to the World Health Organization, traveling by plane, bus or train for four hours or more doubles the risk of developing DVT.

RevitaLeg will begin shipping in May, and will be sold through home care dealers, retail pharmacies, specialty stores and online. The suggested retail price is $149, and the product may be qualified for reimbursement under certain health plans and for specific conditions, the company stated.

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