HEALTH

High allergy incidence thanks to mild winter

BY Michael Johnsen

In contrast to the most recent cough-cold season, which was characterized by a relative lack of upper respiratory illnesses, pharmacy shoppers with itchy eyes, runny noses and audible sneezes have been back in force this spring in search of allergy relief. And those patients are gravitating toward the OTC aisle for their seasonal allergy needs now that the last of the second-generation antihistamines was made available without a prescription a year ago. 


“[The choice between Rx and OTC] really depends upon the severity of the symptoms,” said Stanley Fineman, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, noting there is still a market for nasal steroids and allergy shots. However, many patients have made the transition to the OTC aisles now that Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra are all available without a prescription. 


The allergy category is becoming more magnified, particularly for front-end buyers, noted Scott Hanslip, director of sales at IMS Health. “Once Allegra moved [OTC], there was a drop of about 67% in [Rx] antihistamine tablets from September 2010 through December 2011,” he said. On the OTC side, Allegra helped carry OTC allergy sales through spring 2011. “If you were to remove that Allegra volume, the OTC overall consumption business was way off because it was a really dismal spring period [last year],” Hanslip said. 


This year, allergy incidence and consumption is up significantly, however. In part because of a mild winter, tree pollens triggered the spring allergy season some four weeks earlier this year, Fineman observed. And that increase in sufferers earlier in the year will translate into fairly significant consumption gains, Hanslip said. “We’re looking at anywhere from a 5% to 15% lift [in people affected by airborne allergens],” he said. 


As of April 27, approximately 23 million people were affected by airborne allergens, representing 8.2% of all adults and 5.3% of all children under the age of 13 years, according to IMS Health tracking. 


Most of the markets are already in “alert” status, Hanslip noted, though there is still some strong activity expected across the North and Northeast where there is a strong predominance of allergy sufferers. “Several of those markets haven’t gone from pre-alert to alert yet,” he said. Localizing inventory and promotional spends is even more critical across allergy as compared with cold and flu, Hanslip said, with potential swings of millions of sufferers seeking relief as the variant pollen levels fluctuate. 


For the summer, the North and Northeast, Midwest and Southeast markets will see significant gains in allergy sufferers, Hanslip said.

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HEALTH

FDA advisory committee recommends OTC availability of HIV test

BY Michael Johnsen

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — OraSure Technologies on Tuesday announced that the Food and Drug Administration’s Blood Products Advisory Committee recommended that the OraQuick In-Home HIV test be made available without a prescription.

“There was broad support expressed by the HIV community at [the] meeting, and we look forward to continuing our work with them in the fight against HIV," stated OraSure president and CEO Douglas Michels. "We believe the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test will make a valuable contribution in this fight.”

The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test is an over-the-counter version of the OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV-1/2 Test, which is currently sold into the professional market. The OraQuick Advance test can detect antibodies to both HIV-1 and HIV-2 in oral fluid within 20 minutes, the company stated.


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Clif Bar wheels out bicycling promotion

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK  — Clif Bar on Tuesday announced its first-ever “Join the Ride” program, which invites consumers to describe how a new bicycle will help them live better. The program will focus on personal health and fitness, community involvement and green living. Individuals with the 50 most compelling entries will receive a Raleigh Route 3.0 bicycle and a Giro Reverb helmet.

Produced in partnership with Bicycling magazine, all winning entries also will be posted on a group blog on Bicycling.com. The program begins May 15 and will be open through June 18. Entries, limited to 100 words or less, can be submitted at Bicycling.com/clifbar.

"Clif Bar believes that life is better on a bicycle," stated Ryan Mayo, Clif Bar environmental activism manager. "We’re committed to supporting the bike movement and feel that riding a bike can bring about profound change in our lives and the world around us, from improving our fitness and lowering our stress, to reducing our carbon footprint by leaving the car keys at home for quick trips around town. ‘Join the Ride’ gives us the opportunity to share the thrill of riding a bike with new and existing cyclists."


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