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Seniors overlooking preventive care

BY Antoinette Alexander

As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed last year under health reform, Medicare now offers preventive wellness visits to seniors enrolled in Medicare Part B and select Medicare Advantage plans. For eligible seniors, these wellness visits can prove to be an important step in preventive care; however, the rates of utilization are surprisingly low. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this represents an ideal opportunity for convenient care clinics.

Recognizing the integral role that retail-based health clinics play in improving health outcomes and reducing costs, several clinic operators are stepping up to the plate to drive awareness of the offering and bolster utilization.

“With Walgreens serving as a daily health and living destination for tens of millions of customers and patients, it makes perfect sense to use the Take Care Clinics to offer convenient access to preventive healthcare services. Preventive medicine can play an important role in improving health and wellness, and healthier patients means lower costs for individuals, families and payers,” said Heather Helle, divisional VP of Consumer Solutions Group for Take Care Health Systems.

Take Care Clinics announced in mid-April that it is now providing the Welcome to Medicare Preventative Visit and Medicare Yearly Wellness Visits at all of its 360-plus clinic locations throughout the country. Take Care Clinics is heavily promoting the new offering on its website, and Walgreens and Take Care Clinics are reaching eligible seniors through such tactics as grassroots activities in the markets served by Take Care Clinics.

MinuteClinic, which is owned by CVS Caremark, does not offer Welcome to Medicare Preventative Visits and Medicare Yearly Wellness Visits at this point in time; however, the clinic operator does work to drive awareness of services by providing educational materials to Medicare-eligible patients.

“We offer a range of preventive services to Medicare beneficiaries that aim to help people on their path to better health and reduce overall costs. In addition, CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic provide educational materials to Medicare-eligible patients that include information about new preventive services and savings available for those affected by the Medicare Part D coverage gap,” stated Andrew Sussman, president of MinuteClinic and SVP/associate chief medical officer of CVS Caremark.

Driving awareness is key. Since January 2011, Medicare has offered the annual wellness visit, which is free for patients (i.e., no co-pays or deductibles). However, a national survey released in late April by the John A. Hartford Foundation found that 68% of older adults surveyed had not heard of the benefit or were not sure if they had heard of it. Only 17% said that they had received their annual wellness visit. In fact, the self-reported number may be overstated, as Medicare’s records suggest that uptake is only 6.5%.

The poll, conducted by national public opinion firm Lake Research Partners, surveyed 1,028 Americans ages 65 years and older between Feb. 29 and March 3, 2012.

Low awareness is clearly a factor in the high underutilization rate, but it is likely that a lack of access also is an obstacle. Not all physicians’ offices are providing the wellness visits.

“It’s tough for us to speculate on why the Medicare Yearly Wellness Visit benefit is not being widely utilized by eligible seniors, but with our accessible and convenient model, we believe we can play a role in helping Medicare members take advantage of the services that are available to them,” Helle said.

Upon completion of a Welcome to Medicare Preventative Visit or Medicare Yearly Wellness Visit at a Take Care Clinic, a Take Care Health Systems provider delivers a personalized wellness plan to the patient with clear explanations of findings and recommendations. A summary of the visit, with patient permission, also is shared with the patient’s primary care provider and health plan via the clinic’s electronic medical record system.

With more than 1,000 retail health clinics throughout the country, convenient hours of operation and high-quality care, the convenient care industry is ideally positioned to save Medicare dollars by improving and maintaining the health and well-being of seniors and, in turn, driving down costs.

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Heart disease, cancer lead fatalities in men 45+

BY Michael Johnsen

All men know: It’s not the fall that kills you; it’s that sudden stop at the end. Men smoke more (23.2% versus 18.1% of women), drink more (71.6% versus 59.6%) and eat more (40% overweight, 21.5% obese versus 28.6% and 17.6%, respectively). Men die sooner (before the age of 75 years versus age 80 years for women) and are less likely to seek health care on their own (25.3% of men have no usual source of health care versus 13.8% of women).

Men are full-throttle all-systems-go, until one day they’re not. Because it’s that sudden run-in with a heart attack or stroke, that sudden diagnosis of prostate or colon cancers, that slows them down.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men 45 to 55 years old, and men 75 years and older. (At ages 55 to 74 years, cancer is the leading cause of death among men.)

Click here for a statistical breakdown of the leading men’s health issues, the nutritional support with each disease state that may help promote better health and the nutritional deficiencies caused by common therapies.

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COPD spurs drug development

BY Alaric DeArment

Taken together, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema — affect nearly 50 million Americans, or about 15% of the total U.S. population, according to statistics from such organizations as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And combined, the two diseases cause more than 100,000 deaths per year. Fortunately, however, there is a wide range of treatments available for both, many of which work for both diseases.

According to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry group for branded drug companies, the number of people living with COPD — which, according to the National Institutes of Health, includes 13 million who have it but don’t know it — has spurred a large amount of drug development around the disease. A PhRMA report released in February found that more than 50 drugs currently are in clinical development for treating COPD, ranging from pharmaceutical drugs to stem-cell therapies that attack the biological mechanisms behind the disease. Decision Resources, a market research firm, predicted that the COPD market will grow from $8 billion in 2010 to $13 billion in 2020 in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Some new drugs for the condition already have hit the market. In October 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved Boehringer Ingelheim’s Combivent Respimat (ipratropium bromide and albuterol sulfate), which is delivered in a propellant-free inhaler that uses a slow-moving mist to deliver the same active ingredients as the Combivent Inhalation Aerosol. The company expects to launch the drug in the middle of this year. In November, generic drug maker Mylan bought rights to a drug delivery platform made by Pfizer that would allow it to manufacture and commercialize generic versions of GlaxoSmithKline’s Advair Diskus and Seretide Diskus (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol).

Meanwhile, despite growth in the COPD market, the asthma market is expected to decrease slightly and remain basically flat. According to another Decision Resources report, the asthma market in the same seven countries the firm used to measure the COPD market is expected to decline from $14.6 billion in 2010 to $14.4 billion in 2020. In contrast with the plethora of new drugs for COPD, the asthma market will see increased competition and generic erosion. For example, Merck’s Singulair (montelukast) had sales of $3.3 billion in 2010, but that figure is expected to drop to $2 billion in the United States, Europe and Japan due to generic competition.

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