PHARMACY

Cigna broadens health-and-wellness offerings with Kronos acquisition

BY Antoinette Alexander

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. Cigna is expanding its onsite health capabilities by acquiring Kronos Optimal Health Co., a Phoenix-based health-and-wellness company that specializes in lifestyle management programs, face-to-face coaching, biometric screenings and health education programs.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 2002, Kronos is a provider of worksite wellness and has served as a vendor for Cigna for several years. With a contracted network of about 13,000 health coaches, health educators and screeners across the United States, Kronos will support Cigna’s onsite programs as well as continuing to provide health management services to its existing clients.

Cigna Onsite Health offers full-service onsite clinics, pharmacy services, one-on-one health coaching, biometric screenings and flu shots andonsite/online health improvement programs delivered in a classroom setting, as well as employee assistance programs. It is led by a management team experienced in operating multi-specialty group practices, urgent care centers, pharmacies, laboratory services and convenient care clinics.

The acquisition demonstrates the importance of employer-based healthcare. In fact, a recent report by Watson Wyatt (now part of Towers Watson) and the National Business Group on Health states that 72% of employers already have enhanced their onsite offerings with programs geared toward stress management, EAPs or health coaches, or expect to do so in the next 12 months. The report also found that companies with effective health and productivity programs are also more likely to have lower healthcare costs, lower levels of absenteeism, fewer lost days because of  disabilities and lower levels of turnover relative to their industry peers.

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FDA approves expanded use of Crestor

BY Alaric DeArment

WILMINGTON, Del. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new use for a cardiovascular drug made by AstraZeneca, the drug maker announced Monday.

The FDA approved Crestor (rosuvastatin calcium) for reducing the risk of stroke, heart attack and surgical restoration of blood flow – known as arterial revascularization – in patients without obvious coronary heart disease but an increased risk of cardiovascular disease based on age, presence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and quantities of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in the blood of 2-mg per liter or more. Crestor already had approval for treating other cardiovascular health risks when used along with changes in diet.

“Not only is this approval a significant milestone for AstraZeneca, but it is also important for the patients who could now benefit from Crestor therapy under this approved indication,” AstraZeneca chief medical officer Howard Hutchinson stated.

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CMS: U.S. health spending hits $2.5 trillion as Rx costs reach $246 billion

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Healthcare spending in the United States climbed 5.7% to $2.5 trillion in 2009, despite the impact of a struggling economy, according to projections issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and published in the journal Health Affairs.

Healthcare expenditures now comprise 17.3% of the nation’s total gross domestic product, CMS estimated. Over the next decade, the agency predicted, health spending will jump at an average rate of 6.1% a year, versus a projected average annual gain of 4.4% for the overall GDP.

With more Americans losing their insurance and Medicaid enrollments rising, public spending for health care will continue to grow faster than health spending in the private sector, the government predicted.

The rise in total health costs was not quite matched by the growth of prescription drug spending, CMS economists estimated. Total prescription drug spending rose a projected 5.2% last year, the agency reported in Health Affairs, to a U.S. total of $246.3 billion.

That marks an accelerating trend for drug spending, according to the journal, which cited “an increase in per person use of drugs, driven by the need for antiviral drugs to treat H1N1, and by higher price growth in brand-name drugs.”

Long-term growth of both overall healthcare expenditures and the prescription drug market will continue at a steady clip, government analysts predict. CMS pegs total drug expenditures at $457.8 billion by 2019, Health Affairs reported, “with spending growth expected to accelerate over the projection period due primarily to increases in drug prices.”

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