HEALTH

Study: Top quit-smoking apps not employing tried and true smoking-cessation strategies

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Many of the most popular anti-smoking apps for iPhones or Androids lack some basic strategies that are known to help smokers quit, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine released Tuesday.

“Quit-smoking apps are an increasingly available tool for smokers,” stated lead author Lorien Abroms, an associate professor of prevention and community health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. “Yet our study suggests these apps have a long way to go to comply with practices that we know can help people stub out that last cigarette.”

The researchers found apps for smartphones were in high demand around the world, with more than 700,000 such apps downloaded every month for Android phones alone. The popularity of such apps may speak to the high level of desire smokers have to quit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of all smokers tried to quit in 2010, the most recent year that statistics were available.

The researchers identified 414 quit-smoking apps for iPhones and Androids and then zeroed in on 50 of the most popular ones from each operating system. The team analyzed each app’s approach to smoking cessation, including their adherence to guidelines established by the U.S. Public Health Service on treating tobacco use. The guidelines review decades of scientific studies and offer recommendations on the most effective ways to beat a tobacco habit.

Overall, the study found that the most popular apps were not giving smokers the best treatment options — at least from a clinical practice standpoint. For example, none of the apps in this study recommend that smokers call a quit-line, usually a toll free number that has trained public health counselors on hand that provide advice on quitting smoking. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, such counseling can more than double a smoker’s chance of successfully ending their habit.

And less than one-in-20 apps recommended that smokers try medication to help them resist the cravings for a smoke. Researchers know that nicotine replacement therapy can be a highly effective tool, especially when used in conjunction with a quit-line. In fact, the use of such counseling along with medication can more than triple a smoker’s chances of joining the ranks of former smokers. Most apps also lacked basic advice on how to quit smoking and did not provide assistance in setting up a quit plan, the authors said.

This study had some limitations, including the fact that it does not offer any insight on how the apps are being used once downloaded and whether people are using them in combination with other effective methods. 

Abroms suggested smokers might want to consider taking the new technology a step back by using their phone not just to download an app but to make a call. “They should simply pick up their smartphone and call a quit-line now to get proven help on how to beat a tobacco addiction.”

The study, “A Content Analysis of Popular Smartphone Apps for Smoking Cessation,” will be in the December print edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

 

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FDA seizes $2 million in DMAA product

BY Michael Johnsen

SILVER SPRING, Md. — At the request of the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Marshals seized dietary supplements manufactured and held by Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, located in Norcross, Ga., after FDA investigators found the products contained 1, 3-Dimethylamylamine HCl (DMAA) or its chemical equivalent, the agency announced Monday.  

“This company has a responsibility to ensure its products are safe for distribution and human consumption,” stated Melinda Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “We have taken action to protect consumers and demonstrate our commitment to their safety by keeping these products from entering the distribution system.”

The retail value of the seized products is more than $2 million, the agency estimated.  

A complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia alleged that the products were adulterated according to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because they contain DMAA, an unapproved food additive that is deemed unsafe under the law. 

The FDA is urging consumers not to buy or use supplements containing DMAA, which can elevate blood pressure and could lead to cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, shortness of breath and tightening of the chest. Given the known biological activity of DMAA, the ingredient may be particularly dangerous when used with caffeine. Consumers should check labels and avoid any dietary supplements containing DMAA, which is referred to on different product labels by 10 possible names. The FDA has warned consumers about the health risks of DMAA on its web site.

On Nov. 12, 2013, U.S. Marshals seized more than 1,500 cases of finished goods and more than 1,200 pounds of in-process/raw material goods from the Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals facility.

During the FDA’s inspection of Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, which began in October, investigators identified 11 products that were labeled as containing DMAA or its chemical equivalent. These products included Black Widow, ECA Xtreme, Fastin, Fastin-XR, Lipodrene, Lipodrene Hardcore, Lipodrene XR, Lipodrene Xtreme, Lipotherm, Stimerex-ES, and Yellow Scorpion. The investigators also observed bulk DMAA raw ingredients at the facility. Prior to the seizure, on Nov. 1, 2013, the FDA issued an administrative detention, temporarily holding the products until they were seized.

Dietary supplements containing DMAA are illegal and the FDA is using all available tools at its disposal to remove these products from the market. In 2012, the FDA issued warning letters to companies notifying them that products containing DMAA need to be taken off the market or reformulated to remove this substance.

 

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PL Developments expands product offering into store brand liquids with Aaron Industries acquisition

BY Michael Johnsen

WESTBURY, N.Y. — PL Developments on Monday signed a definitive agreement to acquire Aaron Industries, manufacturer and distributor of liquid-dose private-label over-the-counter, pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare products for the retail and packaged goods industry.  

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The agreement is subject to government approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act. It is anticipated the deal will close in late November.

“PL Development’s preeminent position in the solid-dose market segment, combined with Aaron Industries’ strength in liquids and first-aid products, allows us to provide greater product depth and choices for the growing needs of our retail partners and the consumer packaged goods industry," stated Mitch Singer, PL Developments president and CEO.

“This is a rare combination of two industry leaders with complementary product lines that fit perfectly together,” added Evan Singer, EVP corporate development for PL Developments. “Both companies have experienced strong growth in recent years and have become important suppliers to our retail and consumer packaged goods customers," he said. "Now, with an expanded array of products and capabilities, we see PL Developments establishing more meaningful relationships with our clients by offering a broader product selection and by utilizing our best-in-class operations, supply-chain and quality systems to provide our clients with a scalable and efficient solution for their store brands.

The combination of the two companies will create a new force among private-label providers to mass merchandisers, drug stores, club stores, dollar stores, grocery chains, convenience stores, drug wholesalers and the entire consumer packaged goods industries. As a result of the acquisition, PL Developments will supply products to retailers worth more than $1 billion of sales to consumers encompassing more than 3,000 SKUs of solid- and liquid-dose OTC medicines and consumer healthcare products. 

Aaron Industries’ operations will be completely integrated into PL Developments, with combined company headquarters in Westbury, N.Y. Its manufacturing and distribution facilities will remain in Clinton, S.C., and Los Angeles. 

PL Developments and Aaron Industries serve most of the nation’s largest retailers, including WalMart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Walgreens, CVS/Caremark, Rite Aid, Kroger, Topco, Target, Dollar General and Family Dollar. 

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