HEALTH

In study, insurer shows cost benefits of smarter health decisions by patients

BY Jim Frederick

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. Americans can lower their total medical costs significantly by taking simple steps to prevent or manage disease and by switching to generic drugs whenever possible, new research from health insurance giant Cigna confirmed.

A new, multiyear study compared the healthcare claims of 897,000 Cigna customers enrolled in consumer-driven health plans, preferred provider organizations and health maintenance organizations. Based on its findings, Cigna asserted that beneficiaries covered by its Cigna Choice Fund CDH plans “improve their costs without compromising care by becoming more engaged in improving their health and by becoming informed healthcare consumers,” according to a company report.

“When Americans engage in health-smart habits, such as participating in health coaching and disease management programs, substituting generic medications for brand-name drugs and avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency room, their total medical costs went down 15%,” the report noted. That resulted in an average savings of $358 per person in the first year, Cigna noted.

Behind the cost reductions, according to the insurer, were higher-than-industry-average rates of participation by Cigna CDH plan members in health coaching and disease management programs, as well as higher generic drug substitution rates. “Cigna CDH plan participants who also have Cigna Pharmacy Management benefits choose generic equivalent drugs 70% of the time,” the company noted.

Avoiding unnecessary emergency room visits also is key to health cost savings, the report noted. “CDH plan enrollees use the emergency room at a 13% lower rate than individuals who have HMO and PPO plans,” the company asserted. “When Cigna Choice Fund customers visited an urgent care facility, their doctor’s office or convenience clinic instead of the ER, they saved an average of $800.”

 

“The evidence is clear,” the report’s authors asserted. “Given the right incentives, the right health improvement programs, useful cost and quality information, and easy-to-understand correspondence, individuals are making rational, wise and successful healthcare decisions.”

 

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HEALTH

McNeil recalls one lot of Tylenol

BY Allison Cerra

FORT WASHINGTON, Pa. McNeil Consumer Healthcare has pulled a lot of Tylenol off the market, following complaints of a musty odor.

McNeil said the uncharacteristic odor is thought to be caused by the presence of trace amounts of a chemical called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole. The lot of Tylenol 8-Hour, 50-count bottles are part of lot number BCM155 and carry the following UPC code: 3 0045-0297-51 8.

Earlier this month, McNeil’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, addressed its "phantom recall" of McNeil’s Motrin products before a House committee, adding that its recalled over-the-counter products soon would repopulate shelves. McNeil also shuttered its Fort Washington, Pa., plant amid the controversy.

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HEALTH

Surveys note disparity among consumers, pharmacists on how to treat common cold

BY Michael Johnsen

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. A new national survey of U.S. adults has found the majority of Americans are misinformed about what causes the common cold, and how and when they should treat it. Nearly three-quarters of consumers (72%) believed there is not much they can do about a cold except mask the symptoms and wait it out. In fact, one-third of cold sufferers admitted they wait until they feel miserable before taking medications that can help.

According to a second survey of U.S. pharmacists, this consumer belief is in direct contrast to what the majority of U.S. pharmacists believed — 93% of pharmacists reported that early treatment of a cold actually can prevent a trip to the doctor’s office, and 84% of pharmacists believed consumers often make poor choices about the best treatments for their colds.

“Consumer misperceptions about how they catch a cold — and how and when they should treat a cold — are the most prevalent barriers to optimal treatment,” stated Fred Eckel, professor of pharmacy practice and experiential education at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “As cold season approaches, it’s important for consumers to understand the benefits of early intervention against a cold, and to focus on effective ways to shorten its duration. The results of this survey mirror what pharmacists see every day: Our patients still believe many of the myths they grew up with, and they need better information on how to treat their colds.”

The surveys, commissioned by Matrixx Initiatives, also found that most consumers harbor myths about what causes a cold and what remedies are effective. While 86% of consumer survey respondents understood that colds are caused by viruses, 65% of consumer survey respondents also incorrectly believed that bacteria can cause a cold, and 53% of consumer survey respondents mistakenly believed a cold can be treated with antibiotics.

The top five myths about colds that pharmacists said are most difficult to debunk are:

  • Antibiotics can kill the germs that cause colds;
  • Changes in the weather can cause colds;
  • Getting wet and chilled can cause colds;
  • Sitting in a draft can cause colds; and
  • Avoiding changes in temperatures will help prevent colds.

“The surveys point to a clear need for pharmacists and doctors to educate consumers on early intervention, and help them identify the best remedies to treat the common cold early and help them get over it faster,” Eckel said.

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