HEALTH

Aon predicts smaller increase in healthcare costs in coming year

BY Drew Buono

CHICAGO Healthcare costs are expected to increase an average of 10.6 percent in the next 12 months, according to Aon Consulting Worldwide.

Aon Consulting surveyed more than 70 leading healthcare insurers, representing more than 100 million insured individuals, and found that healthcare costs are projected to increase by 10.6 percent for health maintenance organizations, 10.5 percent for point-of-service plans, 10.7 percent for preferred provider organizations and 10.5 percent for consumer-driven health plans. These represent the lowest trend rate increases since the study began in 2001, and are slightly lower than one year ago, when HMO cost increases were 10.9 percent, 10.8 percent for POS plans, 11.2 percent for PPOs and 10.7 percent for CDH plans.

Prescription drug costs are expected to increase 9.2 percent, which is slightly lower than the 9.5 percent trend rate one year ago. The specialty pharmacy trend rate is 12.2 percent, down from 15.1 percent in spring 2007. Aon Consulting points to the sluggish rate of drug adoption across the board, compounded by the FDA’s reduced rate of drug approvals—especially for new molecular entities and biologic products—as the contributing factors leading to this decline.

In addition, health care rate increases for retirees over the age of 65 are projected to be 7.3 percent for Medicare Supplement plans and 7.7 percent for Medicare Advantage plans, down from 11.2 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively, one year ago.

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Westchester, N.Y., considering stricter limit on cough medicine sales

BY Drew Buono

WESTCHESTER, N.Y. A new bill maybe passed in Westchester that would ban the selling of cough and cold products containing dextromethorphan to anyone under 18, according to The New York Times.

The county would follow Nassau and Suffolk who passed legislation last year banning the selling of the products to anyone under 18 and 19 respectively. Reports have shown a large increase in children taking the medications in excess to get the “high” euphoric effects that they would receive from drugs like marijuana.

If the law passes, Westchester supermarkets and drugstores that sell DXM products to minors would get a warning for the first violation and $150 fines for each subsequent offense.

Similar bans are under committee review in the United States Senate and the New York and New Jersey state legislatures. A Connecticut bill proposed in 2005 did not proceed to a vote.

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Military pharmacy pulls Chantix from shelves

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK While the Federal Aviation Administration has banned pilots’ use of the anti-smoking drug Chantix, it remains available at a United States military hospital in Okinawa, Japan, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported in an article marked for Tuesday.

Officials at Yokota Air Base, however, have pulled it from the base’s pharmacy.

The restrictions on the drug’s use follow a report by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices linking the drug to seizures, psychosis, muscle spasms, vision disturbances and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

The Food and Drug Administration wants the drug’s maker, Pfizer, to put new safety labels on it.

Known generically as varenicline, Chantix had sales of $883 million in 2007, according to Pfizer financial data.

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