HEALTH

Council for Responsible Nutrition, Natural Products Association respond to British Medical Journal meta-analysis

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Two associations representing dietary supplement companies criticized a British Medical Journal meta-analysis published April 20 that concluded calcium and vitamin D supplementation may increase risk of heart attack and stroke.

“[The] findings were not what one would expect to find — that for the women not taking personal calcium supplements at the start of the trial, those allocated to combined calcium and vitamin D supplements were at an increased risk of cardiovascular events,” Council for Responsible Nutrition SVP scientific and international affairs John Hathcock said. “Conversely, the authors also wrote that for women who were taking personal calcium supplements at the start of the trial, combined calcium and vitamin D supplements did not alter cardiovascular risk. So in this case, it appears the more you take, the better off you may be,” he said. “It seems more likely that [the] findings are a procedural or statistical anomaly.”

The authors of the controversial meta-analysis elected not to disclose possible benefits of calcium supplementation, Hathcock added. “While the authors did include data for those who before the trial had ‘any personal use of calcium’ having a highly significant 16% decrease from death from all causes, they chose to ignore that point in their text, having identified it only in a table.”

“This latest analysis does not present compelling evidence against calcium and vitamin D, and in fact, there are many more studies touting the beneficial effects for both,” stated Cara Welch, VP scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association. “We hope that all individuals who use calcium supplements for bone health, and especially those under the direction of a physician, will continue their supplementation and not be swayed by this flawed analysis.”

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CDC kicks off Flu App Challenge

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday announced its CDC Flu App Challenge to identify innovative and creative uses of technology that would help raise awareness of influenza and/or educate consumers on ways to prevent and treat the flu. All told, the challenge will award up to $42,500 in prizes.

The submission period runs through May 27; winners will be announced June 8.

In an effort to support a place where the public and government can solve problems together, the CDC has compiled a wealth of data that now is available to the software development community at FluApp.challenge.gov to generate innovative solutions to promote healthy flu prevention behavior. Participants will be charged with creating new ways to utilize technologies for any platform broadly accessible to the open Internet.

The judges of the competition include Jim Cashel, chairman of Forum One Communications; Maureen Marshall, health communications specialist at the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases; Fred Smith, the technology team lead at the CDC’s electronic media branch; Mark Smolinski, director of global health threats at the Skoll Global Threats Fund; and Peter Speyer, director of data development for the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Judging criteria (followed by weight of criteria in parentheses) includes the degree to which the app or game uses a combination of creative and relevant data sets, including at least one from the list of CDC datasets (20%); the degree to which the app operates in a functional and elegant fashion (20%); the to which degree the software applies best practices for health and risk communication, as cited on CDC.gov/HealthCommunication/HealthBasics (20%); and, most importantly, the degree to which the app is considered creative, interesting and fun to use (40%).

The awards are $15,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place, $5,000 for third place, $2,500 for “People’s Choice” and $2,500 for honorable mention. Judges will have the discretion of awarding up to an additional five "honorable mention" prizes at $500 each.

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Tec Labs to cooperate with FDA over product’s MRSA claims

BY Michael Johnsen

ALBANY, Ore. — In response to a Food and Drug Administration warning letter, Tec Labs announced on Thursday that the company plans to work with the agency regarding its StaphAseptic first-aid antiseptic and pain-relieving gel.

The FDA on Wednesday issued a total of four warning letters, including the one to Tec Labs, to companies that manufacture and market products claiming to prevent infection from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, or MRSA.

“Tec Labs has remained in good standing with the FDA for 30 years, ensuring the products they manufacture and market meet the regulations appropriate for their category,” the company stated in a release. “Acting in complete agreement that MRSA prevention claims should be clear, accurate and proven based on established regulations, the company will take steps necessary to meet the agency’s primary concern for public health and safety.”

The FDA has provided letter recipients 15 working days from April 18 to respond to the letter.

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