HEALTH

Novartis positions itself as eye care giant with Alcon merger

BY Michael Johnsen

BASEL, Switzerland — Novartis on Wednesday announced that its merger agreement with Alcon has been settled to the tune of $12.9 billion. The new $8.7 billion Alcon eye care division, which includes CIBA Vision and selected ophthalmic medicines, will be led by current Alcon president and CEO Kevin Buehler.

Shares of Novartis were up 7.6% to more than $60 in early morning trading.

"The full merger is the logical conclusion of our initial strategic investment in Alcon,” stated Daniel Vasella, Novartis chairman.

“The growth synergies here are significant, as Alcon will be the eye care development engine for our best-in-class research organization, and will leverage the Novartis market access capabilities [outside the United States]," added Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis.

Full ownership of Alcon provides Novartis with the opportunity to establish a fifth growth platform as part of its healthcare portfolio, the Swiss drug developer noted. The eye care sector offers further growth opportunities underpinned by the increasing unmet needs of emerging markets and an aging population.

The Alcon and Novartis eye care portfolios address a broad range of these unmet needs, the company stated. The companies have complementary pharmaceutical portfolios for diseases in the front and back areas of the eye, as well as strong global brands in lens care. Alcon is a global leader in ophthalmic surgical products, while Novartis has a broad contact lens portfolio and advanced eye care technologies, as well as an early pipeline of innovative ophthalmic medicines.

The merger currently is expected to be completed during the first half of 2011 and is conditional on clearance of a registration statement by the Securities and Exchange Commission, two-thirds approval by the shareholders of each of Novartis and Alcon voting at their respective meetings and other customary closing conditions.

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Roark Capital completes acquisition of Atkins brand

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — Private equity firm Roark Capital Group last week closed the deal on its acquisition of Atkins Nutritionals, a weight-control and nutrition brand. Atkins’ management team, led by CEO Monty Sharma — who invested alongside Roark Capital in the transaction — will remain with the business.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

"We are very excited to partner with Monty Sharma and his team to help support the continued growth of the Atkins brand," stated Ezra Field, managing director of Roark. "Atkins is consistent with our strategy of investing in leading consumer businesses with strong brands, differentiated market positions and identifiable growth opportunities.”

Roark owns such franchises as Seattle’s Best Coffee, Auntie Anne’s and Carvel.

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Survey reveals Americans’ concerns over product recalls, information

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — A new Consumer Reports poll released Monday found that only one-fifth of U.S. adults were aware of having purchased food, medication or a product (other than a car) that was recalled in the past three years.

Americans surveyed believed it is important to know about product recalls, but they were not confident that they are getting adequate information delivered to them, the poll also revealed.

While only 20% of U.S. consumers were concerned that they personally missed a recall announcement in the past three years, some groups were more concerned than others. More than one-quarter of 18- to 24-year-old consumers were concerned they missed a product recall notice. This compared with less than one-sixth of all consumers ages 65 years and older. Parents of school- and/or preschool-aged children also were slightly more apt to be worried about missing such announcements than were other adults (26% versus 19%).

Consumers were more likely to find out about product recalls from the news than any other source. Nearly two-thirds of those consumers who had experienced a recent food recall and a slight majority of those who purchased a recalled medication found out about the recall from a news report.

Finding out about product recalls somewhat was more varied. While a plurality of those who purchased a recalled product were informed of the recall via the news, 1-out-of-6 found out about the recall from the manufacturer and a little more than one-tenth from family, friends or coworkers. Among the survey’s findings:

  • Of the 20% of the population who believed they purchased a recalled product, nearly 40% responded that it was for food, almost 40% for a medication and 24% for a product;

  • Less than one-quarter of Americans researched a product they purchased to see if it was recalled;

  • More than one-half of Americans said they never or rarely filled out the registration cards that come with products; and

  • Half of Americans were not confident that manufacturers and retailers shared safety information with government agencies, while two-fifths lacked confidence that manufacturers and retailers provided consumers with appropriate product recall information.

The poll was commissioned by the newly formed National School Safety Coalition, convened by Consumer Reports, the National Parent Teacher Association and the National School Boards Association. Coalition partners include the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. The coalition distributes safety alerts and recall notices on children’s products, including toys, food, medicines and furniture, through a Consumer Reports microsite, ClickCheckandProtect.org.

The "Consumer Reports Product Recalls" survey is based on a nationally representative sample of American adults, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. A total of 2,005 landline and cellular random digit dial telephone interviews were completed among adults ages 18 years and older. Interviewing took place between Aug. 19 and Aug. 29.

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