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Study: Hispanics less likely to get flu shot

BY Michael Johnsen

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Seniors of Hispanic descent are far less likely to become immunized against the flu or pneumonia, compared with white seniors, according to a new RAND study released earlier this week.

Researchers found that Hispanic seniors who prefer speaking Spanish and live in such linguistically isolated communities as the Southeast are least likely to be immunized.

"All Hispanic seniors are less likely to become immunized, and we found the problem seems to be the worst in new immigrant communities where Spanish is the predominant language," stated Amelia Haviland, the study’s lead author and a statistician at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "These findings suggest new strategies may be needed to target an important problem."

The findings were published in the Jan. 24 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study analyzed information from more than 244,000 seniors surveyed in 2008 as a part of the Medicare Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, a federal project that regularly polls a large number of American seniors about a variety of healthcare issues.

According to the study, 74% of white seniors had received the pneumonia vaccine, while just 56% of English-speaking Hispanic seniors and 40% of Spanish-speaking Hispanic seniors had done so. Findings for getting the annual flu vaccine were a bit less dramatic, RAND reported. While 76% of white seniors had been inoculated against the flu, 68% of English-speaking Hispanic seniors and 64% of Spanish-speaking Hispanics seniors had done so.

Researchers found that the disparities did not appear to be related to differences in health status and were explained only partly by socio-demographic differences between the groups. Communities where there was a long-standing Hispanic population had significantly smaller disparities in influenza vaccination rates, regardless of language preference.

In addition, researchers found that Hispanic seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage Plans had higher pneumonia immunization rates and experienced lower White-Hispanic disparities than those in traditional fee-for-service Medicare plans, regardless of language preference.

Haviland said the findings suggested that further efforts are needed to improve cultural and linguistic access to care for Hispanic seniors.

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FDA reports possible link between breast implants, rare cancer

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The safety of silicone breast implants has long been a subject of controversy, but a review by the Food and Drug Administration indicated another possible health risk.

The FDA said Thursday that it had found a possible association between saline and silicone gel-filled breast implants and a rare cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, and that patients with implants may have a “very small but significant” risk of ALCL in the scar capsule adjacent to the implant.

The agency is requesting reports of any confirmed cases of ALCL in women with breast implants and said it was working with manufacturers to update product labeling.

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Shoppers CEO steps down

BY Michael Johnsen

TORONTO — The abrupt departure of Shoppers Drug Mart president and CEO Jürgen Schreiber announced Wednesday is expected to negatively impact the company’s stock — many investors bought into Shoppers on the faith that retail maven Schreiber would return Canada’s largest drug retailer to consistent quarter-over-quarter growth.

“Schreiber’s departure could be a concern for some investors [for two reasons],” UBS analyst Vishal Shreedhar wrote in a note published Thursday morning. “A CEO exit during a period of earnings volatility could cause some investors to question [Shoppers’] current strategy and outlook. … Many shareholders invested in [Shoppers] because of their confidence in Schreiber’s ability to return the company to consistent growth.”

Shreedhar noted that Shoppers still is delivering positive earnings, however, and maintained UBS’ buy rating for the Canadian retailer.

Schreiber’s resignation is effective Feb. 15.

Shoppers immediately inducted a global search for a new CEO. Chairman David Williams will serve as the company’s president and CEO on an interim basis until a replacement is named. Prior to his appointment as chair of the board of directors in February 2007, Williams served as a member of the company’s audit committee from 2003 through 2006. Williams’ retail experience includes 22 years with George Weston and Loblaw Cos., where he held a number of senior executive positions in operations and finance.

In leading this transition, Williams will operate with a structure that will have three of the company’s most senior executives reporting directly to him on an interim basis, Shoppers announced, including Brad Lukow, EVP and CFO; Mike Motz, EVP operations; and Mary-Alice Vuicic, chief administrative officer and EVP human resources.

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