PHARMACY

Cost of low health literacy in U.S. estimated to be between $106 billion and $236 billion

BY Allison Cerra

STORRS, Conn. Americans’ “health literacy” costs the economy between $106 billion to $236 billion annually, a new report released Friday by the University of Connecticut stated.

The new report, which was supported by a research grant from Pfizer, discusses the importance of health literacy, the level to which people have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information.

The results of the study imply that persons with basic health literacy would have trouble, even when using information from a clearly written, accurate pamphlet. Those considered to have below basic health literacy would not be able to recognize a medical appointment on a hospital appointment form, nor would they be able to determine from a clearly written pamphlet containing basic information how often a person might have a specified medical test.

“Our findings suggest that low health literacy exacts enormous costs on both the health system and society, and that current expenditures could be far better directed through a commitment to improving health literacy,” said John Vernon, Department of Finance at the University of Connecticut, and lead author of the report.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), 36% of the adult U.S. population—approximately 87 million people—have only “basic” or “below basic” health literacy levels.

The report findings underscore two basic types of health policy interventions. The first is elimination of gaps in health insurance coverage, while the second focuses on specific actions to improve the ways in which health insurers and healthcare providers relate to and interact with patients.

“An individual’s health literacy skills have a profound impact on his or her ability to manage a chronic illness, such as diabetes or high blood pressure,” said Barbara DeBuono, executive director of Public Health and Government at Pfizer. “If an individual understands and can act upon medical instructions, unnecessary emergency department visits and hospitalizations can be reduced, which, in turn, lowers overall healthcare costs.”

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Synta and GSK enter into $1.1 billion deal

BY Drew Buono

LONDON and LEXINGTON, Mass. Synta Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline have agreed on a collaboration for the joint development and commercialization of STA-4783, a new drug entering phase-three clinical development for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.

Under the terms of the agreement, the companies will share responsibility for the development and commercialization of the drug in the United States, with GlaxoSmithKline having exclusive rights outside of the United States.  Synta can earn up to $1.1 billion as a result of this agreement in development, upfront payments, stock purchases and milestone payments.

“This agreement confirms GSK’s growing status as a world leader in the development of new oncology medicines for use in the treatment, prevention and supportive care of cancer patients.  It further strengthens our late stage oncology pipeline, which currently includes ten phase-three programs, and also demonstrates our commitment to identifying compounds that have the potential to deliver real benefit to patients,” said Moncef Slaoui, chairman of research and development at GSK.  “The data we have seen from the phase-two trials conducted by Synta have given us confidence in the potential of STA-4783 as a novel means of treating metastatic melanoma, a disease for which there is high unmet medical need.”

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CMS updates Medicare Part D Web site

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has updated its Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder, so that senior citizens and other beneficiaries can begin to review 2008 Part D drug plans.

The finder offers beneficiaries a chance to compare drug plans and health plans, view premiums, formularies and availability of coverage in the gap.  CMS wanted to make the finder as easy as possible to use and provide as much information as possible so that beneficiaries are ready before the open enrollment begins on Nov. 15.

The finder is at www.medicare.gov.

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