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Horphag CEO: We’ve had our best ever three month period

By Stephen Daniells , 02-Apr-2012

Cochrane Review has had "no impact" on business - Victor Ferrari
Cochrane Review has had "no impact" on business - Victor Ferrari

Sales of Pycnogenol, a potent antioxidant from the bark of the French maritime pine, continue to drive growth for Horphag Research, as the company’s CEO reveals double digit growth.

“We’re experiencing our best three months,” Horphag’s CEO Victor Ferrari told NutraIngredients-USA. “We posted double digit growth last year, and we’re set to post that again.”

The majority of the sales for the company have come in dietary supplements, with South America, Asia, and Japan showing particular growth, he added.

Pycnogenol - a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids extracted from the bark of the maritime pine – is included in more than 700 dietary supplements, cosmetic products and functional foods and beverages worldwide.

Backed by science, challenged by Cochrane

The company’s ingredient has been the subject of scores of clinical studies suggesting benefits covering everything from cardiovascular, joint, cognitive and eye health to the relief of hay fever, PMS, tinnitus, hemorrhoidal pain and menopause symptoms.

Despite a scientific portfolio of almost 100 studies, the prestigious Cochrane organization recently made the ingredient the focus of a review, and concluded that “current evidence is insufficient to support Pycnogenol use for the treatment of any chronic disorder”.

The review included 15 clinical studies with a total of 791 participants related to the use of the pine bark extract in chronic disorders: asthma, attention deficit disorder, chronic venous insufficiency, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, hypertension and arthritis.

Despite the prestige of the Cochrane organization, the review’s conclusions have had “no impact” on business, said Ferrari.

Diverse science

Frank Schönlau, PhD, scientific director at Horphag, told NutraIngredients-USA that the conclusions were “predictable”.  

“The research on Pycnogenol is too diverse in terms of investigated health conditions and underlying pathologies. As an example, blood pressure improvements were shown in one study with normo-tensive menopausal women, another in metabolic syndrome patients, in another study Pycnogenol was taken in addition to prescription hypotensive medication, and yet another in people with kidney problems.

“The diversity of subject population and concomitant medications do not allow for carrying out meaningful meta‐analyses and hence the judgment had to result in the conclusion that further research is required to make conclusions.”

“How do you pool data for asthma, ADHD, osteoarthritis, and the other health conditions?” he asked.

While the company was not surprised by the conclusions, Ferrari and Schönlau took exception to the authors’ judgment on possible “study selective reporting bias”.

“This is scientifically unfounded and according to the publication was exclusively based on author’s arbitrary impression followed by consensus,” they said.

The company has a general rule of signing ‘no conflict of interest’ declarations between Horphag Research and cooperating research institutions, they said.

“Horphag Research continues its commitment to research and will continue to be one of the leading companies in the field of evidence-based nutraceuticals,” they added.

Source: The Cochrane Library
Published Online 15 February 2012, doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008294.pub3
“Pycnogenol for the treatment of chronic disorders”
Authors: A. Schoonees, J. Visser, A. Musekiwa, J. Volmink

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