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Stress Eater? Emotional Eater? Whatever kind of ‘eater’ you are, there’s probably a physiological reason

26 Jan

This is a feature I drafted while on work placement at Frank PR last January, to promote a new dietary aid from XLS Medical.

What kind of eater are you?

Copycat Eater

We tend to adopt the eating habits of those around us. If your boyfriend habitually snarfs a bacon sarnie or pays a 2am visit to Chicken Cottage on his way home after a night out, this legitimises your kebab pit-stop after a girls’ night out.

If you feel more comfortable eating pizza with those girlfriends who are more of a comfy size than going bar-hopping with the size-zero girlfriend – maybe just because you look and feel better about yourself in their company, -bear in mind that you become who you eat with.

A 2007 study from Harvard University took 32 years’ of data from an inter-linked social network of 12,000 adults and found a person’s chance of becoming obese rose by 37% if their spouse had become obese; 40% if a sibling had; and 57% if a friend had.

Emotional Eater

Perhaps instead of confronting your difficult or negative emotions, you reach for something to plug the void. You don’t want to have to analyse the reasons for your friendship problems, or admit to yourself that the love of your life hardly acknowledges your existence. So you allow yourself a chocolate biscuit. Or one, or two, or three.

Studies have found high levels of obesity in those who have difficulty forming close relationships, perhaps because of childhood issues or some history of relationship abuse. Interestingly, this link between obesity and abuse has only been found in women. Men have other coping mechanisms. It is time you stopped and fought against this ‘coping’ behaviour that has evolved from a societal perception and objectification of women.

Learn to love yourself, and accept that other people can and will love you too. Then you can make a conscious decision to develop healthier habits.

Careless Eater

Studies have found that people whose lives are marked by a lack of self-control typically show higher levels of obesity. Maintaining a healthy diet takes planning and, extreme caution around high-fat foods. If you get home at night without the energy to cook and make yourself a pile of baked beans and toast loaded with cheese, you have only yourself to blame for lack of foresight. Don’t settle for the easy option.

Moreover, there are hidden calories in everything. Dollop of ketchup is another thirty or forty. And careful with the butter – a large serving, melting and dripping off the bread just the way you like it – that’s another sixty calories. Per slice.

Eating Out of Boredom

Maybe you lack something to do with your hands. Perhaps you’ve just given up biting your nails. Is this the reason you find yourself compelled to keep reaching for the popcorn at the cinema; to keep digging your fist into the tin of Quality Streets someone left on the coffee table.

Chronic boredom is actually a condition known as “anhedonia”, defined as a neurobiologically-reduced sensitivity to pleasurable experiences. By constantly seeking easy gratification in the form of very sweet or salty foods, long-term you impair your ability to feel pleasure. Brain scans have shown similarly reduced density of dopamine receptors (dopamine being the pleasure chemical) in obese people as cocaine users.

So try to minimise the presence of sweet, fatty and salty foods in your diet, and also the way you use them to ‘treat yourself’. This is a dangerous association to build; instead get recreational enjoyment from a wide range of (brain) activities.

Stress Eater

Do you hit the biscuit tin in times of stress? There may be a biological reason, though it depends on the type of stress you are suffering from. If the stress is one your brain interprets as a ‘challenge’ it is capable of dealing with, it takes a neurological shortcut and activates the sympathetic-adrenomedullar (SAM) system directly, bypassing to some extent the first site of response; the SAM is the pathway responsible for the production of adrenaline. Adrenaline diverts blood to the brain and muscles, and away from non-essential activities like digestion. People suffering this type of stress often end up eating less.

HOWEVER if the stressor is perceieved as a ‘threat’, another hormonal pathway, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) gland is activated. The HPA is principally responsible for the release of cortisol or corticosterone. Cortisol stimulates hunger and feeding, so an excess of cortisol can trigger resort to highly palatable – i.e. tasty and high-calorie – foods.

With humans, if “threat stress” includes a threat to one’s social self concept, like having an aspect of public embarrassment or failure, it is an even more potent trigger of cortisol release.[1]


[1] Dickerson SS, Gruenewald TL, Kemeny ME. When the social self is

threatened: shame, physiology, and health. J Pers 2004;72:1191–216.

[21] Goeders NE. The impact of stress on addiction. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol



Spotlight on Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare – latest developments

21 Jun


Strategic acquisition of Parts

GE Healthcare’s Korean division has formed a global supply deal with local x-ray imaging provider Rayence, a subsidiary of Vatech Co, for its line of CMOS detectors. It will also acquire certain of Rayence’s Mammography assets. The Mammography assets of Rayence will become part of the Detection & Guidance Solutions (DGS) business unit of GE Healthcare.

General Manager  of Women’s Health, GE Healthcare, Detection & Guidance Solutions (DGS) Prahlad Singh declared, “At GE Healthcare we are very excited about the future of Women’s Healthcare. With the mammography assets of Rayence, tailored for regions with specific cost and access needs, we add capability that allows us to bring affordable mammography solutions to new users and rural communities around the world, in particular physicians undertaking screening programs for breast cancer diagnosis…when combined with GE’s core imaging capabilities, we will create a system that will have best in class image quality at the lowest total cost of ownership.”

Rayence’s core products includes a full range of Flat Panel Detectors (FPD) based on a-SI (amorphous silicon) technology, but the biggest feather in its cap is the CMOS line. Based on Active Pixel Sensor Technology, they combine lower power demands with high spatial resolutions from 20 um to 200 um pixel and, crucially, a lower radiation dose.

James Hyun, CEO of Rayence said, “This deal is meaningful in that Rayence has secured a solid global business partner for supplying CMOS detectors. I am very pleased that Rayence’s technology capabilities were acknowledged and products made by Rayence will be distributed to the world by GE Healthcare, thereby contributing to the enhancement of women’s health. Rayence plans to invest the money earned through the sale of our mammography assets into the R&D of core parts for x-ray devices including detectors and expansion of manufacturing lines.”


Pharma Giants form R&D Consortium

Three pharmaceutical conglomerates with a heavy presence in Asia became joint founders of an R&D programme managed by the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences (ICES), itself a member of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Pfizer Asia Pacific, Glaxo Wellcome Manufacturing and Siemens will collaborate to address regulatory challenges and the costs of bringing drugs to market.

In addition, use of facilities such as the ICES’ Kilo Scale Laboratory will enable them to road-test products already processed on a small-scale on a mass production level. Containment and explosion-proof facilities allow, respectively, for processing of toxic and highly flammable materials. A pilot scale multipurpose continuous plant takes a product through the production stage.

Prior laboratory testing (calorimetry) and process studies such as HAZOP are undergone in a separate fully equipped laboratory, with staff experienced in process development and operation . Process analytics (PAT) and Quality by Design (Qbd) enhance their responsiveness to specific patient demands, and clinical trials.

Executive Director of ICES Dr. Keith Carpenter said, “ICES has built strong and deep capabilities in the understanding of process science and technologies and the time is ripe for such depth and breadth of knowledge to be applied to the chemicals and pharmaceutical industries. By identifying common research focus, companies can mutually benefit from joint research. This will enable companies to address industry-wide challenges and further reinforce the competitiveness of Singapore’s chemicals industry.”

Mr. Lim Hock Heng, Managing Director of GlaxoSmithKline’s Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Sites Singapore, stressed the mutual advantages to firms participating in the scheme: “At a time when companies in the pharmaceutical industry are challenged on speed in new product development, manufacturing process innovation, consistency in product quality, regulatory conformance and environmental sustainability, an integrative approach to the application of cutting edge technologies will be crucial to future success. The launch of iPSP is very timely.”

BioSante uses Royalties on Female Testosterone Gel to fund merger with Subsidiary ANI

BioSante Pharmaceuticals completed the merger announced in its plan of April 12, 2013, with the contract manufacturing company ANI, launched in 2008. ANI executed contracts for specialist and also toxic drugs such as those to fight cancer, for both BioSante and external contractors.

New CEO Arthur S. Przybyl stated “This merger is the catalyst for potential future growth. We now have a strong balance sheet with over $10 million in cash and no debt. We expect to utilize the incremental cash available to us as a result of this merger in two ways: to accelerate our product development efforts and for potential accretive acquisitions.”

As part of the move, BioSante issued to the holders of ANI series D convertible preferred stock an aggregate of 32,814,504 shares of BioSante common stock, representing around 57 percent of the outstanding shares of BioSante common stock immediately after the merger. Consequently, BioSante now operates under the leadership of ANI’s management team.

In addition to Mr. Przybyl, the new board of directors of BioSante consists of Robert E. Brown Jr., Tracy L. Marshbanks, Ph.D. Thomas A. Penn and Robert Schrepfer (all formerly of ANI), as well as Fred Holubow and Ross Mangano (both formerly of BioSante).

Pryzbyl laid out the new company’s market position: “We currently manufacture and market seven prescription products that we either developed internally or acquired. ANDAs for five additional generic products are pending at the FDA and we expect to submit six additional ANDAs in the remainder of 2013. These eleven generic products address a total annual market size of approximately $760 million, based on data from IMS Health.”

Immediately prior to completion of the merger, the BioSante board of directors authorized, declared and enacted a distribution of contingent value rights (CVRs) to holders of record of BioSante common stock outstanding immediately prior to the merger’s completion, with one CVR allocated per one share of common stock.

The CVRs represent payment rights arising from a future sale, transfer, license or similar transaction(s) involving BioSante’s LibiGel (female testosterone gel), includinImageg a royalty on sales of LibiGel if the combined company launches the product on its own and, and provided less than $2.5 million is spent on further product development before launch.

A Miracle, and the technology that could replace barefoot doctors

27 Feb


Modern-day fairytale for Cumulus Global, as cloud profits go sky-high

Cumulus Global, a New England-based IT company providing tailored cloud solutions, announced revenue growth of a staggering 300% for 2012. Sales for the year were over $3.3million, compared to $972,000 in 2011.

Its expansion came from three directions: first, from small to medium businesses (SMBs), which CEO  and co-founder Allen Falcon describes as its ‘core’ market, up by 30% on last year. Second, from local, municipal and county governments and agencies, for which Cumulus provides assistance with data management, security and internet regulation compliance.

Falcon predicts that Google apps for government and related services to “more than triple over the next 12 to 18 months”. The principle areas of activity are migration, education and support services, especially for schools and libraries which Falcon says will provide “increasing opportunity.”

He says, “We work with our customers to identify if and how cloud solutions can improve efficiency, expand services, drive revenue, and lower costs. We bundle products and services that overcome challenges and enable growth.”

Cumulus conducts regular webcasts and open Q&A sessions for curious companies, NGOs, schools and government agencies, providing direction on cost-effective ways into the cloud.

Mobilitas Technologies will connect healthcare to most isolated locations

Brand-spanking new mobile and cloud-based healthcare solution, HeMoClo, will link all medical service providers, from doctors to nurses to pharmacists to pathologists, via a secure information-pooling system.

Based in Bangalore, India, Mobilitas Technologies is the brainchild of crack former employees from Nokia, Intel, Broadcom and Capgemini. The scheme is being unveiled at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. They believe it has a particularly bright future in developing countries, where poor transport and a low doctor-to-patient ratio can hold back an integrated approach to patient care and data-access.

HeMoClo will remove distance as an obstacle, enabling doctors to remotely access patient records, as well as connect with basic monitoring devices to provide real-time data for analysis. It also provides an internal social network for healthcare workers.

Its future roadmap plans an enhanced strategy involving: speciality modules, enterprise connections for pharmacies and pathology labs, integrated telemedicine, medical devices integration, secure social network and real time data analytics for health agencies and resources suppliers, as well as doctors and researchers.

EC-funded research project throws doubt on NHS method of assessing treatment options

25 Jan

 UK gets cold shoulder from Europe over attempt to share its treatment selection process.

 The European Consortium in Healthcare Outcomes and Cost-Benefit research (ECHOUTCOME) has released a report criticising the model used by the UK’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) to select the most appropriate treatment for conditions. ECHOUTCOME project leader and CEO of Data Mining International Ariel Beresniak asserted “robust scientific evidence” proved that “QALYs produce hugely inconsistent, wrong results, on which important decisions are being made.”

 The Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) approach is an economic theory which mathematically weighs the number of life years, and improvement to quality of life, by comparing different treatments to make recommendations as to the most effective. Its dogmatic adherence to its four central precepts has been criticised for failing to take account of patients’ divergent approaches to factors like risk associated with each treatment, and the relative ‘quality’ of healthy life compared to life in a wheelchair.

 In the UK, if the incremental cost per QALY (cost of one additional year in perfect health) is below £30,000 then the option is usually recommended to be accessible to patients. However, researchers point to a recent case where a new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, which several other QALY assessments had rated as cost-effective, was discounted on the basis of one negative QALY result. Ruling out an alternative therapy in this way could be short-sighted if the drugs currently in use become less effective or cause side-effects.


Alastair Kent, Director of Genetic Alliance UK, a group working to improve the lives of people

affected by genetic conditions, says: “We recognise that there is a limited budget and tough

decisions to be made. But the QALY system in its current form is an inadequate, incomplete measure

which neglects important issues. Any system for allocating medical resources must carry confidence

of clinicians, patients and society at large, and the current system does not.”


The research surveyed 1,300 respondents in Belgium, France, Italy and the UK, and is the largest investigation into QALYs ever undertaken. It demonstrated a range of divergent responses to the QALYs four key assumptions, which hold that:

1.     1.   Time and quality of life can be measured in consistent intervals. Quality is subjective and different people rank conditions as having relatively greater or less impact.

2.    2.    Life years and quality of life are linked. This assumes someone who prefers ten years of healthy life to five years will also prefer ten years in a wheelchair to five years.

3.   3.    People are neutral about risk. Results show that they are actually polarised in their attitudes – either very risk averse or disregarding potential risk.

4.     4.   Willingness to sacrifice life years is constant over time. This assumes an individual is willing to trade off a remaining 25 years (20% of life) for better health, but that they will similarly give up two years in ten. In fact, willingness to sacrifice time for life quality varies according to the length of the time period.

Gerard Duru, Emeritus Research Director in Mathematics at the French National Centre of Scientific research (CNRS) said: “The underlying assumptions of the QALY outcome are very theoretical and are not verified in a real population. The QALY indicator is not a valid scientific scale. It is impossible to know what we are measuring, and therefore impossible to base a formula upon it. To be able to trust this formula, all four of these assumptions must be validated. If they aren’t we don’t have the right to use it.”

Experts suggest an approach that is less doctrinaire and more reactive to circumstance and each individual case.


ECHOUTCOME (European Consortium in Healthcare Outcomes and Cost-Benefit research) is made up of experts in healthcare, mathematics and economics from Data Mining International (Switzerland – Project leader), the University of Bocconi (Italy), the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), the French Society of Health Economics (SFES), Cyklad Group (France), Lyon Ingénierie Projets and the Claude Bernard University (France).

Questcore’s search for new drugs and markets

10 Jan


Questcore is a pharmaceutical company with quality products and financial management.

Of the numerous pharmaceutical names presenting at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference this year, Questcore stands out because it successfully targets a niche market. Its balance sheets are healthy too: its operating income in Q3 2012 was $83.4m, up from $33.6m for Q3 of 2011; and its gross profit increased by a bigger margin, from $59.8m in 2011 to $140.3 m this year.

It specialises in autoimmunodeficiency syndromes like lupus erythematosus, MS and kidney malfunctions. Its flagship product Acthar is used to treat MS relapses and a rare form of childhood epilepsy known as Infantile Spasms. Although it describes its penetration of the market for alternative MS relapse treatments as “modest”, it could prove a better option than steroids, whose negative side effects include osteoporosis, weight gain and diabetes.

Steroids are believed to work in MS patients as an anti-inflammatory for the nervous system, and by suppressing the immune system, preventing it from attacking the myelin in nerve sheaths. Acthar does the same essential jobs, by binding to melanocortin receptors, a type of G-protein coupled receptor. It connects to all five types of melanocortic receptor, which explains its variety of other uses.

At the moment Acthar is predominantly used as an alternative treatment for nephrotic syndrome (kidney damage leading to leakage of protein into urine) to prevent uremia, and to prevent the same idiopathic condition in lupus erythematosus.

Uremia occurs when toxic nitrogen compounds become accumulated in the blood, leading to dizziness, fatigue, swelling and further inability to filter waste products. Fluid, electrolyte, and hormone imbalances and metabolic abnormalities follow.

The drug works in this instance by inducing dieresis (mass discharge of urine), bonding to the melanocortic receptors (MC2R) in the cells of kidney podocytes, triggering the production of cortisol and other adrenal compounds.

Questcore reports a healthy uptake of its multi-purpose product. Since this time in 2010, the use of vials per quarter has more than doubled, with net sales per quarter showing a similar pattern of increase. In response it has rewarded loyal investors, paying a quarterly dividend of $0.20 per share. Furthermore, it has given $332m through share repurchases for 21.4m shares, an offer recently expanded to incorporate another 7m shares.

Strategic moves to consolidate its manufacturing base, and the trade secret of the drug’s components, concluded in the recent acquisition of the manufacturer of Acthar’s Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API). Gaining BioVectra released C$50m, with a further C$50m on the horizon if 3rd party manufacturing capabilities prove as profitable as hoped.

Questcore is taking a long-term perspective on further pharmaceutical innovation; since 2011, it increased R&D spending from $16.8m to $22.1m, and spending on clinical and preclinical studies from $34m to $65m.

Its spokesmen claimed they were “committed to… identifying and expanding Acthar’s therapeutic role in existing and new directions,” and to “creating long term value for shareholders.”