HEALTH

CVS Caremark study shows drug therapy helps osteoporosis patients

BY Michael Johnsen

WOONSOCKET, R.I. Data released Monday by CVS Caremark indicated that 87% of women 18 years and older with osteoporosis who were taking a drug therapy to treat the disease did not experience a fracture during a two-year study period.

The CVS Caremark data also found that those women with osteoporosis between the ages of 18 and 64 who were not on therapy were 5.7 times more likely to experience a fracture.

“Osteoporosis impacts millions of women in the United States and the resulting fractures due to bone loss associated with the disease can have a significant impact on the individual’s quality of life and increase overall health care costs for the patient and the payor,” stated Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer, CVS/Caremark. “Our research suggests that the medications available today to treat osteoporosis are effective in combating the disease and those women who take and remain adherent to therapy are better able to maintain their mobility and quality of life while avoiding costly fractures.”

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 8 million women in the United States have osteoporosis and an additional 27.2 million women are estimated to have low bone mass, which places them at increased risk for developing the disease. In addition, the NOF reports that one in two women with osteoporosis over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis related fracture in their remaining lifetime. The NOF also reports that in 2005, osteoporosis-related fractures were responsible for an estimated $19 billion in costs, which is predicted to increase to $25.3 billion by 2025.

The study analyzed women diagnosed with osteoporosis over a two-year period. Untreated women less than 65 years of age were 5.7 times more likely to experience a fracture than those treated with a bisphosphonate, estrogen, or other hormone-related osteoporosis therapy. This study evaluated aggregated and de-identified data for almost 400,000 women from the CVS Caremark Health Management Claims Database who had incurred claims between 01/01/07 and 12/31/08. All study participants were continuously eligible for medical and pharmacy benefits throughout the evaluation period. This analysis is an observational study only, and the results demonstrate a relationship between osteoporosis, osteoporotic pharmacotherapy, and fractures; however, as in most observational studies, the causal nature of this relationship cannot be strictly determined.

“The National Osteoporosis Foundation emphasizes the importance of patient adherence and persistence to a prescribed treatment regimen in order to get the maximum benefit from a medication,” stated Robert Recker, NOF president. “NOF is proud to sponsor National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month in May as an opportunity to raise awareness of this disease, help women understand their risk for developing osteoporosis and provide information about the treatments available today to help manage osteoporosis and reduce the risk of fracture.”

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American Red Cross survey: Adults are worried about swine flu, taking precaution

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON One-in-three Americans are worried about the H1N1 outbreak, but more than half of the people are paying extra attention to good hygiene and preparedness as a way of protecting themselves from the virus, according to a poll released Wednesday by the American Red Cross.

The survey of 1,004 U.S. adults, taken May 1 to 4, shows that four-out-of-five of those surveyed reported that they are following the flu story very or fairly closely, and 36% said they were either very worried (8%) or somewhat worried (28%) about this flu virus.

But the flu outbreak has prompted people to take more steps to prevent the spread of the virus, with 55% saying they are paying extra attention to proper hand washing; 48% covering their coughs more, and 41% disinfecting surfaces more. In addition, more than one in three have used hand sanitizers more and made an extra effort to avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes.

“This swine flu virus continues to have the potential to spread throughout the U.S.,” stated Scott Conner, SVP American Red Cross Preparedness and Health and Safety Services. “Families, businesses and organizations should continue to follow good public health practices and to review and update their preparedness plans. … Even if this version of the swine flu virus is not as dangerous as initially feared, public health officials worry that it could come back in a more severe form later this year. The Red Cross believes that prudent preparedness steps now can help keep families healthy throughout the year.”

The survey did show that 11% said someone in the household had gone to work or school when they had the seasonal flu, and 22% indicated that they have gone to school or work within five days of having flu symptoms.

Two-in-five are misguided about flu shots as 39% incorrectly believe that a seasonal flu shot offers some protection from H1N1.

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Study: Taking probiotics during pregnancy may reduce obesity risk after birth

BY Michael Johnsen

LONDON One year after giving birth, women are less likely to have the most dangerous kind of obesity if they had been given probiotics from the first trimester of pregnancy, according to new research released Thursday by the European Association for the Study of Obesity.

“The results of our study, the first to demonstrate the impact of probiotics-supplemented dietary counselling on adiposity, were encouraging,” stated Kirsi Laitinen, a nutritionist and senior lecturer at the University of Turku in Finland, who presented her findings May 7 at the European Congress on Obesity. “The women who got the probiotics fared best. One year after childbirth, they had the lowest levels of central obesity as well as the lowest body fat percentage.

“Central obesity, where overall obesity is combined with a particularly fat belly, is considered especially unhealthy,” Laitinen said. “We found it in 25% of the women who had received the probiotics along with dietary counseling, compared with 43% in the women who received diet advice alone.”

Laitinen said further research is needed to confirm the potential role of probiotics in fighting obesity. One of the limitations of the study was that it did not control for the mothers’ weight before pregnancy, which may influence how fat they later become.

“The advantage of studying pregnant women to investigate the potential link between probiotics and obesity is that it allows us to see the effects not only in the women, but also in their children,” she said. “Particularly during pregnancy, the impacts of obesity can be immense, with the effects seen both in the mother and the child. Bacteria are passed from mother to child through the birth canal, as well as through breast milk and research indicates that early nutrition may influence the risk of obesity later in life. There is growing evidence that this approach might open a new angle on the fight against obesity, either through prevention or treatment.”

Latinen’s study was funded by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, the Academy of Finland and the Sigrid Juselius Foundation, a Finnish medical research charity.

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