CVS Caremark discusses role of HIT
Concerning the effort to shift the nation’s healthcare system away from paper records and handwritten prescriptions toward a fully coordinated system linked through health information technology, CVS Caremark apparently gets it. The company’s leaders have shown a firm grasp of the potential for reaching patients — and keeping them involved in their own health and wellness regimen — through Internet-based tools like Google.
The U.S. healthcare system has evolved over more than two centuries from largely agrarian and small-town roots, where doctors made house calls and “chemists” compounded medicines and plasters for individual patients. Today, it’s a massive, complex patchwork of thousands of physician practices, hospitals, testing labs, clinics and pharmacies, most of which don’t talk to each other.
The result is a sprawling network of silos, most of them linked only indirectly with one another. Each may have a partial understanding of the patient’s condition, prescription drug intake, ancillary conditions, diet or lifestyle habits, but it’s rare for any single point of contact along that health care chain to have that patient in complete, real-time focus.
It’s like the old saw about a group of sightless men trying to describe what an elephant looks like by touch – one describes only the trunk, another only the flank, a third perhaps an ear. The picture that emerges of any patient within this uncoordinated health network is distorted and incomplete.
The strategists at CVS Caremark know that has to change. The company’s partnership with Google was a groundbreaking advance in health IT and integrated care, and its use of the web to survey employers and patients themselves is innovative and cutting-edge. No doubt, the company’s pharmacy and technology gurus will continue to come up with new ways to exploit the power of electronic recordkeeping and connectivity.
Study finds that high protein, fat diet can lead to health problems
ST. LOUIS A new study in the April issue of Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication, shows that in some cases, diets that are high in both fat and protein can lead to health problems.
The researchers, led by Christopher Newgard of Duke Medical Center, reported that rats fed high-fat diets supplemented with extra branched chain amino acids don’t have to eat as much or gain as much weight to develop insulin resistance, as do chubbier animals fed a high-fat diet alone. Moreover, those ill effects of branched chain amino acids, which include 3 of the 20 amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins, occurred only in the context of a high-fat diet.
“We’ve all made a big deal out of the fact that people in the United States eat too much fat and sugar, but we’ve underestimated the protein component,” Newgard said.
Surveys have shown that most people who overeat don’t show any particular prejudice toward one food group or another.
By comparing the metabolic profiles of obese versus lean people in the new study, the researchers found that key among the many differences between the two groups were elevated levels of BCAA in those who were overweight. They also showed that BCAA tend to climb along with insulin resistance, a condition that is a precursor to diabetes.
Study: Acid-reflux drugs ineffective in asthma patients
WASHINGTON For nearly 20 years, it was believed that such severe asthma symptoms as coughing, wheezing and breathlessness were triggered in part by acid reflux. A new study conducted by the American Lung Association’s Asthma Clinical Research Centers, however, found the longstanding practice of prescribing heartburn medication to be ineffective and unnecessarily expensive for some asthma patients who do not exhibit symptoms associated with acid reflux, such as heartburn or stomach pain.
Patients participating in the American Lung Association’s ACRC study were randomly given either 80 milligrams of esomeprazole or placebo. Patients in both groups had similar numbers of poor asthma control episodes, and there were no differences in their lung function or other asthma symptoms. These results show that prescription acid controllers were no more effective than placebo for the treatment of asthma.
The results of this study, which were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, are considered to be the most comprehensive evaluation to date of the efficacy of prescription heartburn medication to control respiratory flare-ups in asthmatics whose symptoms have not been well controlled by other therapies.
“Each year, people with asthma are spending as much as $10 million dollars on prescription heartburn medication believing it will help control attacks of wheezing, coughing and breathlessness,” stated Norman Edelman, American Lung Association chief medical officer. “Now we know with confidence that silent acid reflux does not play a significant role in poor asthma control. Talk with your doctor before discontinuing any medication, as each patient’s specific needs will vary.”
For asthma patients with symptoms of gastric reflux such as heartburn that occurs at least twice weekly, the American Lung Association recommends prescription heartburn medication be taken to control heartburn, and not asthma symptoms.