Thursday, February 28, 2013

True Costs of the Flu

Though recently (as of mid February 2013) the flu season is showing signs of winding down, 2012 - 2013 has been a strong flu season, particularly dominant H3N2 strain, which was last seen a decade ago, in 2002-03. Not only with is there an increase reported flu cases but also with the more severe incidences of hospitalizations and other diseases (pneumonia), according to CDC dataRecent healthcare provider 
Health care provider Concentra looked at the true cost of influenza on the American economy.  (
From their report "Below are some actual statistics and costs directly related to the flu that employers and individuals face due to an influenza outbreak:
--According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza is responsible for a total cost of over $10 billion per year in the United States. A future pandemic could result in hundreds of billions of dollars in direct and indirect costs.
--Every year, businesses spend approximately $10.4 billion on flu-related illnesses in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits.
--A study of the impact of influenza on productivity found that the last flu season resulted in 111 million lost work days."
These costs should be a part of the marketing message of providers of products to combat the flu - antiviral products, vaccines and diagnostics.   
Vaccines may see a boost from the flu season, though the product sales take time to catch up with the outbreaks.  With continued publicity for flu vaccines, and with customers racing to doctor’s offices and pharmacies to get the flu shot, there’s a natural tendency to think that this means big revenues for those who make flu vaccines. That’s not entirely out of the question but as Kalorama has been watching the industry for some time, we know that predicting vaccine markets is a little complex.  Our vaccine analyst makes the following point:
“I think this will increase demand for flu shots this season  although it's not clear if that demand can be supplied. Orders were put in months ago. Maybe it can be filled   maybe just partially  not sure. I don't think it will cause a huge surge, though, because the big recent jump in flu vaccine was due to stockpiling of pandemic flu vaccine. That isn't the case here. So I would expect a moderate increase but not enormous.”
For more information on flu vaccine markets, consult Kalorama's full-length study on vaccines, Vaccines 2012-2016, available on Kalorama's website:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

IKEA Food Scare Highlights Food Safety Diagnostics

The recent discovery that some of retailer IKEA's trademark meatballs in its European stores contained equine DNA will focus attention on the need for better controls for the food supply for some highly dangerous threats, according to Kalorama Information. The healthcare market research publisher said the recent coverage of several contamination and impurity incidents in food will drive sales of food safety diagnostics technologies. Kalorama covered the market for food safety testing products in its recently published report, "Food Safety Diagnostics."
It's a rough story for a fantastic retailer but it highlights the damage that a food safety scare can do to a company.  This is an international retailer that used food only as a marketing item and can rely on positive PR of the quality and price of furniture products to survive. For a food company, this might have marked the end of business. 
For its part, IKEA has stopped sales of Swedish meatballs from its 18 UK sites and stopped sales from the same run in 12 other European countries after Czech inspectors found equine DNA in a consignment last week. IKEA is a furniture retailer but sells the meatballs in its novelty cafeterias in its huge box stores. The checks were carried out in response to a Europe-wide scandal that erupted last month when tests carried out in Ireland revealed some beef products contained horsemeat. Kalorama noted that in the largest market, the United States, IKEA says its meatballs are sourced from an American supplier.  They also say the meatballs in the USA contain only beef and pork, which should limit some of the damage in the world's largest market. 
However, Kalorama sees that the problem is not only with authenticity of food but quality of food even when it is authentic.
The larger danger is not so much horsemeat but beef, chicken or even vegetables that may contain a toxin, and do physical damage to a person.  IVD companies who design medical tests now are the experts at developing testing products, and I would expect more of them getting involved. 
Testing for drug residue, for bacteria and for environmental toxins is essential to public health, according to Kalorama, and technologies such as microbiology and molecular testing exist that can assist food providers to calm public fears.  
Kalorama Information's "Food Safety Diagnostics" covers the market for IVD test products used for food testing purposes. The report details the market by threat, including Pathogens, Toxins, Agricultural Chemical/Veterinary Drug Residues, Allergens, and GMO/Authenticity. The report can be found at