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Asthma rates rise, but at a slow pace, CDC finds

BY Alaric DeArment

ATLANTA — Nationwide rates of asthma have been on the rise in recent years, though they’ve risen at a slow pace, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the report, released Wednesday, around 24.6 million people in the United States had asthma in 2009, meaning a prevalence of 8.2%. Rates have risen by around 1.2% per year since 2001, with asthma attack prevalence staying between 3.9% and 4.3% between 1997 and 2009.

Asthma prevalence also differs among demographic groups, according to the CDC. Among children and adolescents, boys have a higher prevalence than girls, with rates of 11.3% versus 7.9%, while children in general have higher prevalence than adults.

The report also noted that use of healthcare service was high for asthma, with 13.9 million visits to private physicians for asthma in 2007. In 2008, around 96% of people with asthma reported that a healthcare professional had taught them how to use their inhalers, but only 34% reported receiving an asthma management plan with instructions on how to change the amount of type of medicine they were taking.

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Canadian analyst speculates on Katz Group sale

BY Jim Frederick

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — Katz Group Canada is withholding comment on a report in the Edmonton Journal Wednesday that speculated on the potential sale of the Canadian drug store giant.

“Katz Group does not comment on rumors or speculation,” said company spokeswoman Michelle Lee when asked about the report.

The Edmonton Journal quoted a report from Perry Caicco, a retail analyst with CIBC World Markets. In that report, issued Jan. 9, Caicco speculated that “reduced profitability and remaining uncertainty about drug reforms in 
certain provinces, most notably Alberta,” could prompt Katz management, including Katz Group chairman Daryl Katz, to consider selling the company.

Katz originally was headquartered in Edmonton before moving its central offices to suburban Toronto. The company fields more than 1,800 drug stores across Canada under its flagship Rexall banner and other trade names, including PharmaPlus, Guardian and IDA. Its chairman also owns the Edmonton Oilers.

Among the firms that may have expressed interest in the drug store company, according to Caicco and the Edmonton Journal, is the Jean Coutu Group, which operates nearly 390 franchised drug stores in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario and owns a sizeable equity interest in Rite Aid. Although Caicco acknowledged that Coutu has given no indication of interest in Katz Group, he noted that government cuts in generic drug reimbursements are reducing profitability in pharmacy retailing in Canada and could trigger a sale, according to the newspaper.

Katz, Caicco speculated, could command a price of $1 billion to $1.5 billion [Canadian].

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Baby boomers unprepared for rising healthcare costs

BY Michael Johnsen

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Nearly half (48%) of Americans between the ages of 45 and 70 years have no financial plans in place to protect themselves against outliving their assets and the rising cost of health care, should they live longer than they expected, according to a survey released last week by the Society of Actuaries.

"It’s apparent that Americans, specifically the baby boomer generation — many of whom will be eligible for retirement the beginning of the new year — have not saved enough money for retirement," stated Anna Rappaport, president of Anna Rappaport Consulting. "With the challenges in the housing and financial markets over the past few years, coupled with the fact that people are living longer, many baby boomers are finding themselves unprepared to maintain their lifestyle in retirement. As actuaries, we cannot stress enough the importance of having a plan in place that addresses all of the risks individuals may face in retirement, such as spending available assets too soon, meeting financial care needs, paying for the rising cost of health care and adjusting financially and otherwise to the loss of a spouse."

The survey also found that nearly 71% of respondents plan to claim social security before the age of 70 years.

Looking at other actions Americans take to protect themselves and hedge against potential future risks, the SOA survey found that 75% of Americans ages 45 to 70 years protect their tangible assets, such as housing, through home or renter’s insurance; however, only 19% plan to insure the extra costs of disability and well-being by purchasing long-term care insurance.

The SOA’s survey findings were based upon a nationally representative online survey of 1,006 individuals, ages 45 to 70 years, and had an error rate of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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