HEALTH

Research: Vitamin E helps repair cell membranes

BY Michael Johnsen

AUGUSTA, Ga. — According to new research released Tuesday, Georgia Health Sciences University researchers have identified one of the internal bodily functions of vitamin E: The antioxidant found in most foods helps repair tears in the plasma membranes that protect cells from outside forces and screen what enters and exits.

"Without any special effort, we consume vitamin E every day and we don’t even know what it does in our bodies," stated Paul McNeil, GHSU cell biologist and the study’s corresponding author. Century-old animal studies linked vitamin E deficiency to muscle problems, but how that happens remained a mystery until now, McNeil said. His understanding that a lack of membrane repair caused muscle wasting and death prompted McNeil to look at vitamin E.

Such everyday activities as eating and exercise can tear the plasma membrane, and the new research shows that vitamin E is essential to repair. Without repair of muscle cells, muscles eventually waste away and die in a process similar to what occurs in muscular dystrophy. Muscle weakness also is a common complaint in diabetes, another condition associated with inadequate plasma membrane repair.

Vitamin E appears to aid repair in several ways. As an antioxidant, it helps eliminate destructive byproducts from the body’s use of oxygen that impede repair. Because it’s lipid-soluble, vitamin E can actually insert itself into the membrane to prevent free radicals from attacking. It also can help keep phospholipids, a major membrane component, compliant so they can better repair after a tear.

For example, exercise causes the cell powerhouse, the mitochondria, to burn significantly more oxygen than usual. "As an unavoidable consequence, you produce reactive oxygen species," McNeil said. The physical force of exercise tears the membrane. Vitamin E enables adequate plasma membrane repair despite the oxidant challenge and keeps the situation in check.

When he mimicked what happens with exercise by using hydrogen peroxide to produce free radicals, he found that tears in skeletal muscle cells would not heal unless pretreated with vitamin E.

The research was reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Next steps, which will be aided by two recent National Institutes of Health grants, include examining membrane repair in vitamin E-deficient animals.


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HEALTH

Prestige makes blockbuster acquisition: 17 GSK legacy brands

BY Michael Johnsen

IRVINGTON, N.Y. — Prestige on Tuesday acquired 17 over-the-counter brands from GlaxoSmithKline for a total of $660 million in cash. Among the brands Prestige acquired are the pain relievers BC, Goody’s and Ecotrin brands; digestive brands Beano, Gaviscon, Phazyme, Tagamet and Fiber Choice; and the Sominex sleep aid brand.

"We expect that upon completion, the transactions will give our company a strengthened portfolio with total OTC revenues of approximately $500 million, as well as platforms to compete in two new categories: adult aspirin-based analgesics and gastrointestinal," Prestige CEO Matthew Mannelly said. "We believe the acquisitions are consistent with our strategic direction, fit with our fixed asset-light outsourced model, provide opportunities for certain cost savings, are financially attractive to shareholders and will result in annual corporate revenues of approximately $600 million with an OTC business segment representing 85% of revenues and 90% of profits."

Prestige has expanded its product portfolio through acquisition by leaps and bounds in the past year with its acquisition of Blacksmith Brands and Dramamine from Johnson and Johnson.

The transactions are expected to be completed in the first half of calendar year 2012 subject to customary legal and regulatory closing conditions, including clearance under the Hart-Scott Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as applicable, and the company closing on its committed financing for the acquisitions.


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PTCB to FSA holders: OTCs are still eligible expenses

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board on Tuesday announced a push to inform patients with practical solutions on how to best utilize remaining 2011 flexible spending account funds.

"The Department of Labor estimates that American families spend $185 per year on OTC medications," stated Megan Sheahan, PTCB director of professional affairs. "Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians play an active role in communicating to patients and families that, in addition to being an affordable and accessible component of health care, OTC medications are often eligible for FSA reimbursement with a prescription."

Employees who contribute to FSAs usually must use all of the funds by the end of the plan year or "lose" that non-taxed money altogether. In years past, most OTC medicines were eligible for reimbursement without a prescription, the Affordable Care Act — which went into effect Jan. 1 — established a new standard, classifying many OTCs as eligible for reimbursement but only with a prescription from a physician.

"Medicine Shoppe and Medicap pharmacy teams are committed to helping patients make smart health decisions for themselves and their families, including helping patients make the best use of their flexible healthcare spending accounts," stated John Fiacco, VP and general manager of Medicine Shoppe and Medicap pharmacies. "Pharmacy registers at many Medicine Shoppe and Medicap pharmacies are even equipped with the latest FSA-approved product information, to help patients understand which products qualify for their flexible spending accounts."


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