- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 2004

Aspirin. Tabasco sauce. Raw eggs. Coffee. Water.

These are the tried-and-true remedies thousands of Americans will use tomorrow morning — or afternoon — to cure splitting heads and upset stomachs.

But more companies are hoping New Year’s revelers will plan for their overindulgence of the bubbly and buy pills and patches that claim to block hangovers.

“It’s too late to do anything when you get a hangover but ride it out,” said Will Chang, president of a Westminster, Calif., supplement company that makes a hangover patch.

Manufacturers of natural supplements are pushing preventive remedies like SoberX patches, Chaser pills and Beer Neutralizers, some with backing from doctors and university researchers.

Although the pills are more prominent, Mr. Chang said, the supplement company SoberXUSA already is “flooded” with orders for its patch, which was introduced last month.

Rather than swallow a pill, a drinker attaches the patch to any part of the body immediately before the festivities to metabolize alcohol more quickly and reduce hangover symptoms.

Mr. Chang would not give any sales numbers, but said SoberXUSA, a subsidiary of Task Alliance Inc., was negotiating to market the patch with national chains like Walgreen Co.

Walled Lake, Mich., supplement company Living Essentials LLC is expecting higher sales this week as people prepare for the heaviest drinking night of the year.

“Sales are great during events like New Year’s Eve. The Super Bowl will be another good sales period,” said Carl Sperber, the company’s marketing director.

Chaser, which is sold nationwide in Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Rite Aid stores, earned $2.5 million in sales from two retailers during a 26-week period ended June 27, according to the most recent data from global marketing-research company Information Resources Inc.

Mr. Sperber would not give more sales or profit figures.

The company financed a study in 2002 that found ingredients in its main hangover-prevention pill, Chaser, were successful in preventing several symptoms.

Although the study has not been published in any medical journals, its author, University of Maine professor James Blum, said the participants taking the pills showed increased energy and less likelihood of dry mouth, headaches, sweating and nausea.

Jonathan Klaft, owner of a supplement company that makes Beer Neutralizer, said he also expects strong sales for the holiday season.

“It’s a big drinking time right now,” Mr. Klaft said.

Beer Neutralizer, formulated to reduce the carbohydrates and nasty aftereffects of beer drinking, is sold in GNC stores and nightclubs, though none in the Washington area, said Mr. Klaft at EGOceuticals LLC in Englewood, N.J.

American consumption of liquor last year was at its highest in December, which accounted for 12.6 percent of total annual liquor consumption, or 20,029 cases, according to the 2004 Adams Liquor Handbook. The handbook did not have data for other types of alcohol.

Hangovers cost the U.S. economy an estimated $148 billion annually, the Annals of Internal Medicine reported.

Prickly pear cactus, long known as a traditional home ointment and laxative, also reduces some hangover symptoms such as nausea, food aversion and dry mouth.

Now, Perfect Equation Inc., a Vista, Calif., supplement company, is selling a capsule form of the extract from the skin of the fruit of the plant.

The company, which makes and owns the patent to the capsule known as the Hangover Prevention Formula, commissioned a study in which a group of doctors found the fruit reduced hangover symptoms by 50 percent compared with a placebo. Their report was published in the June issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

A cure for the common hangover is elusive partly because the amount of alcohol consumed is only one factor, said Dr. Gary Ishkanian, who works at the Elkind Headache Center in Mount Vernon, N.Y. A person’s body composition and family genetic history also affect the severity of a hangover, he said.

Dr. Ishkanian said he doubted the pills and patches would work in most cases. “There haven’t been good clinical trials which have shown these products to be helpful,” he said. “It always seems to be going back to the tried-and-true methods.”

He advised drinkers to go easy on types of alcohol that easily trigger headaches, such as red wine, brandy and whiskey. But the best way to avoid a hangover, doctors say: Drink in moderation, or don’t drink at all.

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