HEALTH

Sentinel Capital Partners acquires WellSpring

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Sentinel Capital Partners has acquired Sarasota, Fla.-based WellSpring Pharmaceutical, the private equity firm said Monday.

Sentinel, which describes itself as investing in lower middle-market companies, said it bought the manufacturer of prescription and OTC drugs, which manufactures its products in Ontario, alongside Ancor Capital Partners. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"WellSpring is an innovator that provides quality pharmaceutical products and related services across a diverse set of end markets," Sentinel partner Eric Bommer said. "The opportunity to invest alongside Ancor was also a strong incentive for us."


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Preliminary study: Vitamin D helped improve cell counts associated with lupus

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — The first study to report the effects vitamin D has on the immune system of people with lupus was unveiled Saturday at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting here.

The small sample study determined that vitamin D supplementation helped improve cell level counts associated with the disease.

“This preliminary study provides encouraging results and suggests the beneficial role of vitamin D supplementation in patients with SLE, with an increase of regulatory T cells and a decrease of memory B cells and effector T cells,” lead researcher Benjamin Terrier said. “However, these findings need to be confirmed in large randomized controlled trials.”

Systemic lupus erythematosus, also called SLE or lupus, is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system and/or other organs of the body. The most common symptoms include skin rashes and arthritis, often accompanied by fatigue and fever. Lupus occurs mostly in women, typically developing in individuals in their twenties and thirties.

There is a connection between lupus and the disturbance of regulatory T cells (which play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system), T helper lymphocytes (white blood cells that assist other white blood cells in the immune system) and B cells (which make antibodies that fight off attacks on the immune system). Vitamin D has been shown to affect the numbers and function of many of these immune cells.

Only patients with no or mild lupus activity were included in this study.

All of the participants in the study were taking a stable dose of prednisone and/or immunosuppressive drugs. Each participant with vitamin D deficiency received vitamin D supplementation (100,000 IU of cholecalciferol) each week for four weeks followed by the same amount each month for six months. Researchers evaluated each participant at the beginning of the study, at two months, and again at six months to see how well they were tolerating the supplementation and how it was affecting their immune systems.

Among the 24 patients in the study, 20 (who were around 30 years old) had low levels of vitamin D and received supplementation. The clinical activity of lupus did not change significantly and none of the patients showed a flare of the disease or required an increase in corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs. However, the levels of anti-DNA antibodies, which are abnormal and pathogenic antibodies produced by B cells, decreased at two months and six months.

The number of regulatory T cells increased with vitamin D supplementation at both two and six months, with a similar trend for both naïve and activated memory regulatory T cells, which represent two subsets of regulatory T cells. This increase of regulatory T cells also was associated with an increased expression of molecules associated with their suppressive function.

A decrease in T helper lymphocytes, previously shown to be increased in lupus, was noted after two months of vitamin D supplementation. Finally, researchers observed a decrease in memory B cells (which produce antibodies) at two months and in activated CD8+ T cells (which may contribute to the disease process in lupus) at six months. Taken together, these results provide evidence of normalization of abnormal lymphocyte numbers in these patients.


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Collectibles hot for holidays

BY Barbara White-Sax

Mini collectibles and collectible trading cards are hot segments in the toy market. They are “on point with what kids want, aren’t expensive and keep kids coming back,” according to Adrienne Appell, a representative for the Toy Industry Association.


Spin Master’s Zoobles, Lego’s Ninjago trading cards and Spin Master’s Redakai trading cards are some of the hottest collectibles this season. Cepia’s Zhu Zhu franchise was a winner for the drug channel last year and continues to appeal to kids with the brand’s new Zhu Zhu Babies mini-collectibles line extension this season.


Apps are having a big influence on the toy category. Appell said that products that start out as apps and move to toys, such as Angry Birds, are having an impact on licensed products. Also gaining traction are “social” or interactive app toys. Products under $20 that can interact digitally with an iPad also will become more prevalent.


Board games, which have been updated with “all play” 
features and shorter play times, continue to be a strong toy segment. Think Fun 
and I Can Do That have fresh entries at price points that are under $20.


Arts and crafts have proven to be a recession-proof segment. Evergreen licensed products, from Dora and Disney Princesses to Cars, give the segment a lift. The segment does well in the drug channel when parents are looking for “self-contained toys for travel or on-the-go 
occasions” Appell said.

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