HEALTH

GNC introduces app for Android, iPhone

BY Allison Cerra

PITTSBURGH — GNC has introduced a new, free mobile application for Android and iPhone devices.

Designed to extend the store experience, GNC said its app, which first debuted last March for iPhone devices, includes such new features as:

  • Updated design: The main menu now is organized with nine user-friendly buttons so users can quickly and easily access the information they want to find;

  • Health Center: Provides easy access to research by ingredient, health concern, lifestyle or goals to help customers discover which supplements are the best fit for their specific need;

  • GNC Who Are You? (GNC WAY): A quick guide that shares information about how all parts of one’s body functions and the GNC products that help them perform at their best; and

  • Clearance aisle: Clearance section that allows customers to stock up on products at "rock-bottom prices."

GNC noted that the new app also includes such original features as:

  • Digital gold card: Scan and stores loyalty card information so customers no longer need to carry it on them

  • Scan, Learn, Save: Customers can read ratings and reviews, discover in-store deals and learn about products simply by scanning the barcode on the product or QR codes featured on store signage;

  • Store locator: Find the nearest GNC store by ZIP code or by your current location;

  • Buy now: Shop and buy directly from GNC mobile, including quick checkout enabled by PayPal;

  • Reminder: Allows users to set scheduled reminders to take their supplements, tracks usage, sends email about compliance, and sets timed alerts for product re-order (only available on the iPhone application); and

  • Deal of the Day: Offers app-only product deals.

"We are excited to further extend the GNC store experience by launching a new version of our application and introducing it to new users," GNC chief marketing officer and e-commerce Jeff Hennion said. "To make sure that we were meeting our customers’ needs, their feedback played heavily into the redesign. In addition to including even more mobile commerce features, we made sure to include health-and-wellness resources that can be accessed from wherever their active lives take them."

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CDC’s stop smoking ad campaign results in a sharp spike in quit attempts

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — Sales of smoking-cessation products may realize a March boom following a recent government advertising campaign that encourages Americans to quit smoking.

One week following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s launch of its Tips from Former Smokers campaign, calls to the 1-800-QUIT-NOW quitline were up 130.4%, the agency reported Monday. Calls were up an additional 3.5% in the subsequent week.

A record 34,413 calls were fielded between March 26 and April 1, the CDC reported.

“Although they may be tough to watch, the ads show people living with real, painful consequences from smoking,” CDC director Thomas Frieden said. “For every one person who dies from tobacco, 20 are disabled or disfigured or have a disease that is unpleasant, painful [and] expensive. There is sound evidence that supports these ads — and, based on the increase in calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW, we’re on our way to helping more smokers quit.”

The ads were launched March 19 and will run for at least 12 weeks on television, radio, and billboards, online and in theaters, magazines and newspapers nationwide. Previous experience from state and local media campaigns promoting quitlines shows at least five to six smokers try to quit on their own for every one person who calls a quitline.

The campaign features compelling stories of former smokers living with smoking-related diseases and disabilities, and the toll smoking-related illnesses take on smokers. The ads focus on smoking-related lung and throat cancer, heart attack, stroke, asthma and Buerger’s disease, a rare condition affecting arm and leg arteries and veins.


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Study finds quadrivalent FluMist vaccine more effective than traditional inoculations

BY Michael Johnsen

ST. LOUIS — An intranasal vaccine that includes four weakened strains of influenza could do a better job in protecting children from the flu than current vaccines, research released Tuesday by St. Louis University found.

Before each influenza season, scientists predict which strains of flu will be circulating and make a trivalent vaccine that includes three strains of influenza — two of influenza A and one of influenza B. The ability to add another strain of influenza B without compromising the vaccine’s ability to protect against the other three strains will allow scientists make a better vaccine, noted Robert Belshe, professor of infectious diseases at St. Louis University School of Medicine and the corresponding author of the research article.

“The bottom line is adding another strain to make a quadrivalent vaccine improves our ability to protect against flu and doesn’t reduce the body’s immune response to the other strains,” Belshe said. “It should bring us better protection because there’s less guess work than in the standard trivalent vaccine.”

Children are more susceptible than adults to influenza from one of the B strains, which change less often than A strain viruses. Some winters, influenza B viruses cause most of the flu in children and significant infection in adults, Belshe said.

Preventing flu in children is key to protecting the entire population. “We think the most important way for flu to spread is through school-aged children,” Belshe said.

In the 1980s, influenza B split into the two circulating lineages of virus, which have evolved into viruses that are quite different. Some years both B viruses or the B strain that doesn’t match the vaccine circulate, which means the vaccine doesn’t protect people from getting the flu.

“There are these two very different strains of influenza B that don’t cross protect. Vaccinating against one strain of influenza B does little to protect against the other,” Belshe said. “It has not been possible to predict which strain has circulated. In the last 10 years, we predicted right five times. So you can flip a coin and do as well.”

Previously, manufacturers had not had the capacity to produce a vaccine that protects against four strains of flu, but that is no longer the case, Belshe said.

The researchers tested versions of the FluMist vaccine, which is sprayed in the nose and contains live flu viruses that have been attenuated or weakened so they don’t cause infection. The intranasal vaccine is made by MedImmune.

The nasal spray vaccine was tested in about 2,300 children between ages 2 years and 19 years. The children were randomized to receive one of three vaccines: a vaccine containing four strains of influenza — two of influenza A and two of influenza B — or one of two vaccines that contained both influenza A strains and one of each of the influenza B strains. Researchers looked at the safety and antibody response to both influenza A and B viruses in children of different age groups who were vaccinated.

Those children who receive vaccine containing four strains of flu had as robust of an immune response as those who received the vaccine that contained three strains. In addition, Belshe noted no clinically significant difference the safety of the vaccines, which were well tolerated.

“We saw stuffy noses, which we know is associated with FluMist, and an occasional low grade fever, which is similar to other childhood vaccines,” Belshe said.

On Feb. 28, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved MedImmune’s quadrivalent flu vaccine for use in people between the ages of 2 years and 49 years. The vaccine could be ready for use during the 2013-2014 influenza season, pending a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about vaccination issues.

An injected flu vaccine designed to protect against four strains of flu — instead of the current three — also is in the works, Belshe said.

Findings were published electronically ahead of print in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.


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