HEALTH

Longs debuts OTC assistance kiosk in stores

BY Doug Desjardins

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. Longs Drug has launched a new in-store merchandising program that helps shoppers find the right over-the-counter medication for the problem they need to treat.

Longs launched PHARMAssist in 140 stores this week after testing the system in a handful of stores for nearly a year. The interactive, touch-screen kiosk is located in the OTC aisle and prompts consumers to answer questions about the health problem they need to treat and provides a list of medications that best address their needs.

“Our customers are faced with a wide variety of over-the-counter product choices,” said Larry Gatta, chief marketing officer for Longs. “They want an interactive solution that recommends and finds exactly what they need. [PHARMAssist] makes it easy and that is our number one priority.”

Evincii, a California-based software company that created PHARMAssist, said an average of 15 percent to 18 percent of OTC shoppers use the system on a daily basis in Longs stores. Evincii chief executive officer Charles Koo said the company is in talks with other retailers interested in using the system in their stores.

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Twelve dietary supplements recalled

BY Diana Alickaj

WASHINGTON Herbal Science International has announced that it will recall twelve of its dietary supplements because they may pose a serious health hazard for consumers, according to published reports.

The supplements each contain ephedra, which can have dangerous effects on the heart, aristolochic acid which can cause cancer and/or kidney damage, or human placenta, which can contain diseases, according to published reports.

The Food and Drug Administration, as a result, sent out a warning for those who purchased the products to immediately stop using them and return them for a full refund, or if they experienced any reactions to contact a doctor immediately.

The products that have been recalled are Wu Yao Shun Qi San; Qing Bi Tang (nasal cleanser); Zhong Fong Huo Luo Wan (stroke revito formula); Xiao Qing Long Tang (Little Green Dragon); Ding Chuan Tang; Xiao Xu Ming Tang; Feng Shi Zhi Tong Wan (joint relief); Guo Min Bi Yan Wan; Fang Feng Tong Sheng San; Tou Tong San (headache formula); Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang (Du Huo joint relief); and Seng Jong Tzu Tong Tan.

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FDA commissioner uses blog to defend dietary supplement industry

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCKVILLE, Md. Food and Drug Administration commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach on Thursday defended the dietary supplement industry through his blog site “Andy’s Take.”

“You might be interested to read on our website about recent actions by the FDA to warn consumers about certain liquid dietary supplement products containing hazardous levels of selenium,” he wrote. “My take on this is that although the vast majority of companies are marketing safe and effective products, from time to time products will get into circulation that turn out to be dangerous to you. Protecting you against these dangerous products can be enhanced with you, the public, as a partner with FDA.”

In that one sentence, Eschenbach refutes two misperceptions sometimes associated with the dietary supplement industry—one, that dietary supplement manufacturers are like so many snake-oil salesmen in promoting their products; and two, that the FDA does not actively and vigorously regulate the dietary supplement industry.

“In the last 15 years, FDA’s criminal investigations resulted in more than 4,500 arrests, more than 3,500 convictions, and more than $5.7 billion in fines and restitution of illegal profits,” Eschenbach reported.

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