CDC reports strong flu season
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early January reported a slight drop in influenza-like illnesses across the country, but even so the season was still going strong. The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness for the week ended Jan. 19 was 4.3%, above the national baseline of 2.2%.
“About halfway through [the flu season], it’s shaping up to be a worse than average season, and a bad season particularly for the elderly,” noted Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a Jan. 18 press conference. “Seasonal influenza always takes the heaviest toll on seniors when it comes to deaths, particularly during seasons when H3N2 is the predominant strain — as it is this year,” he said. “In general, we estimate that about 90% of flu-related deaths are in people 65 years and older.”
The predominant strains this year do not appear resistant to antiviral treatments. “For high-risk patients antiviral treatment really can mean the difference between a milder illness and a stay in the hospital or in the intensive care unit, or even death,” Frieden said. “The drugs clearly work much better if they’re started soon after onset of illness in the first 48 hours.”
“I also want to assure patients that Tamiflu (oseltamivir) 30-mg and 40-mg capsules remain available, and pediatric patients 1 year of age and older can be dosed correctly using the 30-mg and 40-mg capsules,” noted Food and Drug Administration commissioner Margaret Hamburg, addressing reports of shortages of pediatric antiviral medicines. “Tamiflu 75-mg capsules are currently available, but supplies may run low if many pharmacies have to use the capsules to prepare an oral suspension for pediatric patients or to fill large numbers of prescriptions for adult patients. So to help avoid a shortage, the FDA is now allowing Genentech to distribute 2 million units of Tamiflu at the 75-mg capsule level that have an older version of the package insert. … It’s important to note that this medicine is fully approved. It is not outdated.”
The high incidence of flu has prompted a run on available immunizations. According to Frieden, flu shot manufacturers had allotted for distribution of up to 145 million doses this season. As of Jan. 18, 129 million of those doses had been distributed, meaning some 14 million vaccinations had yet to be ordered.
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SCIO, Walgreens partnership makes ROI picture even clearer for big employers
SCIO Health Analytics and Walgreens have teamed up to help employers gain maximum return on investment through worksite health centers. Through the partnership, SCIO will provide actionable data and reporting to demonstrate the value and impact of worksite health centers, while giving Walgreens’ clients areas of opportunity to further improve employee health and reduce costs.
More and more, companies like BMW and United Airlines get it, and there is growing belief that as the clock ticks down to 2014 and full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, even more employers will get it. In the meantime, projects like this that help provide outcome reporting will help make the ROI picture even clearer for big employers who still might be on the fence.
Those Take Care worksite clinic patients are part of the Walgreens universe — where is your brand’s messaging in the minds of those patients?
Expect a lot of growth in worksite clinics in the years to come.
In fact, Tower Watson’s 2012 survey of employers that have established or are planning to establish onsite health centers found that, overall, both employers and employees throughout the organization continue to view centers positively.
The survey also found that most companies establish an onsite health center to enhance worker productivity (62%). And most employers (62%) said a key reason they keep their centers open is improved employee productivity that comes from eliminating visits to offsite medical providers. Another important reason for establishing a center, according to the survey, is cost reduction, including lower cost per service performed, improved health outcomes, reversal of health risk, and fewer ER visits and hospitalizations.
The online survey, which took place from May 3 to May 25, had 74 respondents representing 1.7 million employees and operating in a variety of industry sectors.
SCIO Health Analytics and Walgreens have teamed up to help employers gain maximum return on investments through work site health centers. Both of them helping the employees in the areas like: Health Insurance in low costs. Companies like: BMW and United Airlines supporting them in these innovative works. BMW service and repair in Thousand Oaks
Monster flu season makes last year’s non existent flu season a distant, bad memory
For the week ended Jan. 19, flu incidence was predominant in the central United States and picking up across the West Coast. According to data provided through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network, 4.3% of patient visits reported through the network were due to influenza-like illness, above the national baseline of 2.2%.
At this time last year, the conversation was all about the flu season that never materialized. Only one week in January last year did flu-like incidence rise above the 2.2% national baseline, and then only slightly. So cough-cold and flu comparisons across the front-end and pharmacy were both projected to be double-digit positive if even there were a moderate flu season this year.
But this season is a monster. Excepting the 2009/2010 H1N1 pandemic season, the last time there were this many people reporting flu symptoms was eight years ago. For the four weeks ended Dec. 30 (and before this year’s flu incidence peak), sales of hand sanitizers were up 15.4% to $14.4 million; sales of personal thermometers were up 35.8% to $17.9 million; sales of cold and allergy liquid formulations were up 27.4% to $133 million; and sales of cold and allergy tablets were up 7.9% to $352 million (data courtesy SymphonyIRI Group across all channels). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Jan. 18, 133.5 million doses of flu vaccine has been distributed out of the 145 million manufacturers projected would be produced this season. And the Food and Drug Administration took measures to ensure adequate supply of Tamiflu for both adults and children.
And there are still two months of flu season to go.
As of Jan. 19, the flu was still going strong in Texas, the Lone Star State, along with every state that borders Texas. In Washington, California and Oregon, the consensus is that flu incidence has yet to peak. Minnesota reported that more flu deaths have been recorded this season than when H1N1 ran its pandemic course. And on an unrelated front, an Australian stomach flu culprit norovirus called GII.4 Sydney has supplanted GII.4 New Orleans as the predominant strain causing food poisoning in the U.S.
All in all, this is the sickest winter we will have had in years, and that’s big business for retail pharmacy.
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