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Study: Consumers want control of healthcare decisions but keep it neutral on costs

BY Antoinette Alexander

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — According to a new study, 9-out-of-10 consumers prefer to be in control of medical decisions or participate in shared decision-making with their doctors. Evidence, however, suggests that the cost of care does not typically play a part in these discussions.

These results, and more, are part of the spring 2014 Altarum Institute Survey of Consumer Health Care Opinions, the sixth semiannual survey conducted by Altarum’s Center for Consumer Choice in Health Care. The surveys collect information on consumer beliefs and preferences about health care.

“We can’t assume that one size fits all for consumers — there remain wide variations in skills, attitudes, and behaviors that individuals bring to the health care system,” stated Wendy Lynch, director of CCCHC and the study’s author. “This survey reminds us that many consumers desire an active role in health decisions, but few know how to participate, take action, ask questions, or seek information. Tailoring the right support to the right person will be critical for patient-centered care.”

The study found that, while more than 80% reported that they would feel comfortable talking with their doctors about costs, significantly fewer, around 50%, have ever done so. This gap may be attributed to a lack of confidence, as only one-third of consumers believe they have the ability to shop for better health care prices.

Among other things, the surveys look at consumers’ preferred role in health care decisions, their sources of information about health, factors they consider important in selecting providers, and other perceptions about the quality and cost of health care. Respondents include a national sample of 2,099 adults between the ages of 18 and 64.

In addition to collecting information about the consumer’s role in his or her medical decision making, the surveys collect data on a person’s experience with their own medical illnesses, including home-care and faith-based responses. The surveys also ask about their experience with medical errors, which injure or kill millions of people each year.

Finally, the most recent study found high predictability for those who took the new Altarum Consumer Engagement Measure, created by CCCHC. Altarum recently launched this measure to assess levels of consumers’ health engagement. Consumers with high ACE scores were more likely to look up health-related information and ask questions during health care visits. Conversely, consumers with low ACE scores were more likely to go to the doctor later than they should have. CCCHC researchers are looking at how these scores correlate with consumers’ experience with discussing costs.
 

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WSJ: Benefit managers are curtailing coverage of compounding ingredients

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Express Scripts has taken as many as 1,000 active ingredients widely used by compounding pharmacies off of their coverage list, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Tuesday. 
 
The change comes as costs of the compounding ingredients have spiked. 
 
“It’s an issue of waste,” Glen Stettin, Express Scripts SVP clinical, research and new solutions, told WSJ. “For nearly all of these products, there’s already a commercial preparation already available — a generic or brand-name product approved by FDA. And there is no evidence to support their use at all.”
 
Express Scripts is not alone, WSJ noted. Optum Rx, the benefits manager that is part of United Health Group, CVS Caremark and the Catamaran pharmacy benefits manager have also started placing restrictions on coverage, WSJ reported. Last year, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the largest insurer in New England, ended coverage, except for children and medically necessary drugs for adults.
 

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Upsher-Smith Laboratories launches testosterone gel (1%)

BY Michael Johnsen

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — Upsher-Smith Laboratories on Wednesday announced the launch of testosterone gel (1%), the generic of Vogelxo (testosterone) gel 1%, for topical use. Newly approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it is the first and only available generic testosterone replacement therapy available in three configurations, the company stated. Testosterone Gel (1%) offers once-daily dosing, 24-hour coverage and three configurations: unit-dose tubes and packets and metered-dose pumps.  
 
Vogelxo and testosterone gel are a prescription medicine that contains testosterone. Vogelxo and testosterone gel are used to treat adult males who have low or no testosterone and those with conditions associated with low or no testosterone.
 
"The generic availability of testosterone gel in three convenient configurations is an important advance in the testosterone replacement therapy marketplace and should greatly increase access for the patients who need it," said Mark Evenstad, president and CEO of Upsher-Smith.
 
According to the American Urological Association, 39% of men older than 45 years of age have low testosterone, but few are being treated.
 

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