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Minn. tobacco tax increase boosts smoking-cessation program’s enrollment

BY Alaric DeArment

EAGAN, Minn. — An increase in tobacco taxes in Minnesota has nearly tripled enrollment in a health plan’s smoking-cessation program.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota said enrollment in its Stop Smoking Support program had nearly tripled since a $1.60 increase in the state tobacco tax took effect at the beginning of this month. The program enrolled 186 people in the first two weeks of July, compared with 69 people in the first two weeks of July 2012.

"Blue Cross advocated for this legislation because price increases have proven to be the most effective way to encourage people to quit using tobacco and ultimately live longer, healthier lives," Blue Cross Center for Prevention director Janelle Waldock said. "While our members represent only a segment of Minnesota residents, this early surge in demand for our cessation services is a positive indicator that the price increase is having its desired effect."

The most recent Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey had found that smoking among adults in the state dropped from 19.1% to 16.1% between 2003 and 2010.


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Health Canada approves GSK’s Tafinlar, Mekinist

BY Alaric DeArment

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — Canadian regulators have approved two drugs made by GlaxoSmithKline for treating skin cancer, GSK said Wednesday.

The drug maker announced Health Canada’s approval of Tafinlar (dabrafenib mesylate) and Mekinist (trametinib) in patients with melanoma that can’t be removed by surgery or has spread to other parts of the body.

"Health Canada’s approvals of Tafinlar and Mekinist represent an important step in GSK’s ongoing effort to bring new treatment options to cancer patients as quickly and efficiently as possible," GSK Canada VP research and development operations, and business development Rav Kumar said. "With Tafinlar and Mekinist, we hope to make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients living with metastatic melanoma, a devastating disease with very low survival rates and limited treatment options."


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VidaySalud.com editor-in-chief launches new Spanish-language health-and-wellness website, newsletter

BY Alaric DeArment

LOS ANGELES — The editor-in-chief of a website directed at the Latino community has launched a newsletter and website focused on health and wellness.

Aliza Lifshitz, editor of VidaySalud.com and often known by the nickname La Doctora Aliza, announced the launch of Latina Health Letter. The new site will cover various aspects of health in English from a Latina perspective, with sections dedicated to women’s health, diet, nutrition, exercise, sexual health, diabetes and others.

"Our mission is to engage Hispanics in their own health care and to enhance their relationships with their healthcare providers by giving them the information, tools and skills they need to communicate better with their doctors, to ensure better compliance with physician instructions and to achieve better and more cost-effective health outcomes," Lifshitz said. "Latina Health Letter expands our mission beyond the Spanish-speaking consumers we already serve to include those who prefer to receive information in English."

VidaySalud.com is a large source of health and wellness information in Spanish, accessed more than 2 million times per month. It includes content from the Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic and the Natural Standard research collaboration, as well as healthy recipes from EatingWell magazine.


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