Natural products tipping into mainstream

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A lollapalooza of healthy food, home care, beauty and health & wellness brands were promoted by 2,000 exhibitors at last week’s Natural Products Expo East, held in Baltimore, MD.

But which products are most relevant to mainstream consumers? Eric Pierce, Director, Strategy & Insights, New Hope Network, presented data from the NEXT Trend Concept Lab that used data to predict which natural product innovations are tipping into the mainstream consumer channel:

  • “Mission-based” brands
  • Pre/probiotics
  • Local sourcing
  • Paleo
  • “Hidden veggies”
  • Brain health
  • Compostable packaging
  • Grass-fed dairy

The partnership between Vitamin Angels, which supplies vitamins to undernourished people worldwide, and Walgreens, which donates vitamins based on consumer brand selection, is a great example of the tip towards “mission-based” brands. Walgreens is also donating immunisation to underserved communities when people get their flu shots in the pharmacy. Another trend that has tipped is probiotics, already a mainstream OTC category, and every week more scientific proof of their benefits is published.

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But what about “hidden veggies” for parents trying to appease picky eaters? Can mainstream OTCs provide the nutritional benefits of greens? There were many drinks, sachets and capsules offering several servings of vegetables at the show.

Brain health has proven a challenging claim, in terms of demonstrable and clinical efficacy. Which consumer healthcare player (or start-up) will meet the brain claim challenge?

Compostable packaging may be the gold standard, but without a doubt mainstream marketers can adopt more eco-friendly attire for their brands. This will increasingly appeal to all consumers.

Local sourcing, grass-fed dairy and Paleo (based on the diet regimen) are of course trends in food, but the “clean” philosophy that underpins these trends is being adopted by consumers in all lifestyle segments, including supplements.

These trends are tipping to the mainstream now … will your brand meet consumer demand for healthy and sustainable healthcare products?

Military Potential of Omega-3

A new study will determine if omega-3 supplementation can improve cognitive processes in high-performing soldiers.

Military interest in omega-3 is not new; a 2014 edition of Military Medicine focused on the fatty acids as “nutritional armour”. The interest surrounding military use of omega-3 is mainly related to its reported indication of mood improvement, and possibly reducing suicide rates among serving and ex-military personnel. It is also believed that a faster recovery from traumatic brain injury and the improved reaction times of fighter pilots could also be other benefits found from consistent omega-3 use.

Furthering ongoing studies, a new study is set to officially determine whether omega-3 supplementation can improve cognitive processes in high-performing soldiers. The Ranger Resilience and improved performance on Phospholipid bound Omega-3s (RRIPP-3) study will be conducted by the medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and will include second lieutenants entering the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course (IBOLC) and subsequent Ranger Training at Fort Benning.

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The purpose of the study is to investigate whether supplementation with krill oil concentrate can improve specific cognitive processes that underpin key elements of soldier performance, which may have a measurable impact on performance and mental health under psychophysiological stress of military officer training.

This will be an extension of a study recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders which outlined that omega-3 could potentially help sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is known to produce psychophysiological symptoms such as a pounding heart.

The study will overall seek to answer three questions:

  • Will treatment with krill oil concentrate containing the omega-3 HUFAs improve cognitive and psychiatric functioning during US Army Infantry Basic Office Leadership Course?
  • Will treatment with krill oil concentrate containing the omega-3 HUFAs improve the performance of officers during portions of the U.S Army Infantry Basic Office Leadership Course and Ranger Training?
  • Do the effects of the supplements continue once a person stops taking them? Are there any group differences in functioning observed two months after treatment is discontinued (i.e. after Ranger Training?)

Clever Campaign Connects Condoms With Indian Truck Drivers

India has the third-largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 2.1mn people estimated to be living with the disease.

OTC INSIGHT Asia-Pacific reported last week that, in India, around 2 million truck drivers are frequently engaging in unprotected sex with sex workers and only 11.4% of these workers said they had used a condom.

As a result, the level of STDs in this group has substantially increased and, combined with the general population prevalence of HIV, it is nearly five times higher than the national figure. Sexual health awareness is low among truck drivers. Efforts are being made to educate the population on the importance of sexual health.

Tata Motors, one of India’s largest truck manufacturers, decided to tackle the problem head-on but needed to find an approach that would engage with the target group. Tata Motors enlisted the help of creative agency Rediffusion Y&R and launched the “Use Dipper At Night” campaign in April 2016. Indian truckers have a strong cultural identity and “Use Dipper At Night” (reminding drivers to dip their headlights during nighttime) alongside other brightly painted slogans is often written on trucks.

The idea behind the campaign was to encourage truck drivers to practice safe sex by linking it to a phrase that resonates strongly with every member of the community. To this end, a new condom brand called Dipper was created and marketed exclusively to truck drivers.

HLL Lifecare, a government-owned corporation and India’s largest condom manufacturer, produces the condoms. The brand identity has been carefully thought out in order to reflect the trucking culture in packaging. Each wallet, which contains three condoms, is decorated with different truck art motifs and slogans, such as “Have a Safe Journey”, to make them more appealing to the target consumer.

WHO expresses interest in new Zika test

Scientists in Singapore have developed a kit that can test for the Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses all at the same time in just two hours.

The three mosquito-borne viruses cause similar symptoms such as rashes and joint pain. Symptoms for the Zika virus are generally mild and go away within a week, causing the disease to be misdiagnosed.

The kit is ready for use and only costs a few dollars to produce. Dr Masafumi Inoue, a senior research scientist at the Agency for Science, Technology & Research’s Experimental Therapeutics Centre confirmed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed interest.

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Dr Masafumi Inoue is currently compiling clinical data for the health authority before sending the kit over for testing. If the testing is successful, the WHO may use the kit to test for the viruses.

As it is extremely important to quickly distinguish between the three major mosquito-borne viruses, the kit could prove incredibly useful in ensuring patients receive the required treatment and care without delay.

All that is required from the patient is a blood or urine sample. The genetic material of the virus is then extracted to find out what the virus is. The detection process takes two hours, reducing the time by threefold if each of the viruses were to be tested for individually.

The idea to develop the kit came about six months ago when Brazil had been hit badly by a large number of Zika cases.

Esomeprazole, Ibuprofen OTC Changes Take Effect In Canada

In February this year, Health Canada announced its intention to make two changes to the Prescription Drug List (PDL). Specifically, it was proposed that the PDL be amended to allow an OTC version of esomeprazole for heartburn and to make technical changes that would permit modified-release ibuprofen products available for self-care.

While this announcement was not a surprise as the six-month period for comment elapsed on 5th August, the delay in making the change effective (18th August) was more likely owing to administrative matters than anything therapeutic in nature. The two changes to the federal list are as follows:

  • Esomeprazole or its salts except when sold for the 14-day treatment for frequent heartburn at a daily dose of 20mg
  • Ibuprofen or its salts except:
    1. An oral dosage form that provides 400mg or less per dosage unit; or
    2. A modified-release oral dosage form that provides 600mg or less per dosage unit

While the Federal decision had no further restrictions attached, the provincial scheduling of these products do take on some further limitations as decided by the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA).

Now that the federal switches are finalised, the interim decision made by NAPRA becomes effective. Specifically, the provincial decision on these two items were:

  • Ibuprofen or its salts, when sold in a modified-release oral dosage form that provides 600mg or less per dosage unit would be placed into Schedule III (sold only where a pharmacist is present)
  • Esomeprazole or its salts, when sold for the 14-day treatment for frequent heartburn at a daily dose of 20mg, in package sizes of no more than esomeprazole 280mg would be assigned to Schedule II (available only from a pharmacist directly)
  • Esomeprazole or its salts, EXCEPT when sold for the 14-day treatment for frequent heartburn at a daily dose of 20mg in package sizes of no more than esomeprazole 280mg will not be switched provincially (it will remain in Schedule I – Rx only)

The ibuprofen decision was notable since the regular dosage form is available as an unscheduled item (available through any outlet when sold in package sizes of up to 18,000mg) while the modified release product is restricted. The esomeprazole decision matched the decision made for omeprazole in 2014.

Big push for 23andMe at NACDS

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“This is a story about why you became … who you are,” a friendly woman’s voice says in the new TV ads for 23andMe genetic tests, explaining further that results offer “unique insights into your health, traits and ancestry”. It was rather surprising to hear my 16 year-old son say that he might want to try it someday.

In addition to learning where his great great great great grandfather came from, which is interesting to him now, some day my son will be able to learn about his genetic traits in the same way as his caffeine consumption, deep sleep, lactose intolerance, muscle composition and saturated fat and weight. But more importantly, many many many years from now, when he wants to be a father, he will know if he carries genes linked to conditions like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anaemia and hereditary hearing loss (probably not the same condition as the selective hearing loss that happens when it’s time to take out the trash).

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Currently available through e-commerce, 23andMe is ready for retail and was promoted with a dominant display at last week’s Total Store Expo, held by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, in Boston.

Personalised medicine is bring developed to give patients the best possible treatment outcomes in a clinical setting – but 23andMe in CVS or Walgreens is bringing DNA testing to the masses, intriguing even a 16 year old…

Nix Ultra Tackles Super Lice Epidemic

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This week, OTCs In Action are targeting the not so nit-picking issue of super lice. For the past few months, the head-scratching solution to the problem of how to defy new bionic strains of lice has plagued traditional OTC pesticide marketers.

New evidence from The Journal of Medical Entomology (JME) found that head lice have developed resistance to two types of common OTC insecticide treatments for lice infestation. Over the past year, 98% of head lice in at least 42 states managed to grow gene mutations that enabled the (super) lice to become resistant to pyrethrins, pyrethriods and permethrin.

However, the invasion of the mutant lice shall no longer reign. Prestige Brands have launched a new product, Nix Ultra, to tackle the super lice epidemic. Nix Ultra safely kills both traditional and super lice, as well as their eggs.

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The combination of mineral oil and dimethicone provides optimal coating and coverage of both lice and hair, creating a slippery surface so lice and eggs, even the pesky super strain, can be easily removed.

This is one of just a few super lice OTC treatment products available on the US market and, with super lice rapidly spreading in the US, there certainly (for now) seems to be a safe and reliable solution for worried parents.