HEALTH

Schiff buys into probiotic business

BY Michael Johnsen

SALT LAKE CITY — Schiff Nutrition on Tuesday announced its $40 million acquisition from Ganeden Biotech of the worldwide exclusive rights to use the probiotic technology GanedenBC30 in the over-the-counter and dietary supplement space, along with the brands Sustenex and Digestive Advantage, under which GanedenBC30 currently is sold.

"By acquiring the rights to the leading probiotics technology, we have entered a new, rapidly expanding category that creates accretive growth opportunities,” Schiff Nutrition president and CEO Tarang Amin said. “We intend to leverage this enviable technology and grow the Sustenex and Digestive Advantage lines. In addition, we plan to capitalize on Schiff’s brand marketing know-how, provide incremental marketing investment and use our well-established customer relationships to increase distribution.”

The assets and brands acquired from Ganeden generated net revenue of approximately $17 million for the year ended Dec. 31.

The probiotics category is growing at more than 20% on an annualized basis, according to the Nutrition Business Journal, as cited by Schiff.

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Aristides Spanellis prohibited from buying, selling LifeScan’s blood-glucose monitoring test strips

BY Michael Johnsen

MILPITAS, Calif. — LifeScan announced a major settlement regarding counterfeit packaged LifeScan blood-glucose monitoring test strips sold by Aristides Spanellis.

The settlement permanently prohibits Aristides Spanellis, a South African distributor, from buying or selling both genuine and counterfeit LifeScan blood-glucose monitoring test strips. Spanellis was one of the alleged architects of a sophisticated international operation in which authentic LifeScan test strips were purchased in such countries as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Ghana and then illegally repackaged in counterfeit packaging designed to mimic authentic U.S. boxes. These products then were exported to the United States for sale through unauthorized distribution channels at a significant profit.

“In many cases, critical product performance information was altered during this process, including calibration codes, control solution ranges, lot numbers and expiration dates,” stated Roy Albiani, director of LifeScan’s global brand protection and channel compliance team. “This was particularly dangerous for patients using insulin and could result in serious injury.”

The settlement also includes a substantial monetary payment from Spanellis and an even larger financial penalty if he violates the terms of the court-approved permanent injunction.

LifeScan believed the counterfeit packaging scheme ended in 2008 when a number of lawsuits were initiated and court-ordered seizures were obtained in the United States, Europe and Africa. Since that time, there have been no known instances of LifeScan products with counterfeit packaging in the United States.

“Even though we believe we have stopped the flow of LifeScan products with counterfeit packaging into the [United States], it is critical that we continue to pursue any and all perpetrators of these illegal activities to protect patients,” Albiani said.

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Weight loss among women helps raise blood vitamin D levels

BY Michael Johnsen

SEATTLE — Overweight or obese women who have less-than-optimal levels of vitamin D and lose more than 15% of their body weight experience significant increases in circulating levels of this fat-soluble nutrient, according to a study released last week by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“Since vitamin D is generally lower in [people] with obesity, it is possible that low vitamin D could account, in part, for the link between obesity and [such] diseases [as] cancer, heart disease and diabetes,” said Caitlin Mason, lead author of the paper, published online May 25 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Determining whether weight loss helps change vitamin D status is important for understanding potential avenues for disease prevention.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin D helps promote calcium absorption and is needed for bone growth and bone healing. Along with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis. The nutrient influences cell growth and neuromuscular and immune function, and also reduces inflammation. Many gene-encoding proteins that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis (programmed cell death) are modulated in part by the vitamin.

The yearlong study involved 439 overweight to obese, sedentary, postmenopausal Seattle-area women, ages 50 years to 75 years, who randomly were assigned to 1-of-4 groups: exercise only, diet only, exercise plus diet and no intervention.

Those who lost 5% to 10% of their body weight — equivalent to approximately 10 lbs. to 20 lbs. for most of the women in the study — through diet and/or exercise saw a relatively small increase in blood levels of vitamin D (about 2.7 ng/mL), whereas women who lost more than 15% of their weight experienced a nearly threefold increase in vitamin D (about 7.7 ng/mL), independent of dietary intake of the nutrient.

“We were surprised at the effect of weight loss greater than 15% on blood vitamin D levels,” said Anne McTiernan, director of the Hutchinson Center’s Prevention Center and principal investigator of the study. “It appears that the relationship between weight loss and blood vitamin D is not linear but goes up dramatically with more weight loss. While weight loss of 5% to 10% is generally recommended to improve risk factors, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars, our findings suggest that more weight loss might be necessary to meaningfully raise blood vitamin D levels.”

About 70% of the participants had less-than-optimal levels of vitamin D when the study began; at baseline, the mean blood level of vitamin D among the study participants was 22.5 ng/mL. In addition, 12% of the women were at risk of vitamin D deficiency (blood levels of less than 12 ng/mL).

The optimal circulating range of vitamin D is thought to be between 20 ng/mL and 50 ng/mL, according to a recent data review conducted by the Institute of Medicine, which found that blood levels under 20 ng/mL are inadequate for bone health and levels higher than 50 ng/mL are associated with potential adverse effects, such as an increased risk of developing kidney stones.

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