HEALTH

HDMA strengthens government affairs team

BY Michael Johnsen

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Healthcare Distribution Management Association announced Thursday that Gary Riddle has joined the association as VP state government affairs and that it has promoted Kristen Freitas from senior director to VP federal government affairs. 
 
“Gary and Kristen have an extensive knowledge of pharmaceutical industry issues,” said HDMA president and CEO John Gray. “Their combined industry and association experience — along with a proven ability to build relationships with healthcare stakeholders and public officials — are an asset to HDMA and its distributor members.” 
 
In his position, Riddle will lead HDMA’s state government affairs activities, working closely with HDMA’s pharmaceutical distributor members to develop and implement strategies on state legislative and regulatory issues affecting the supply chain. 
 
Most recently, Riddle served as senior state government affairs manager for Eisai, where he directed advocacy efforts in the Greater Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. He also held government affairs positions at Schering-Plough and the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. Additionally, Riddle served as a health legislative assistant for Sen. Chuck Robb, D-Va. 
 
He holds an MPA from The George Washington University and a BS in Health Administration from James Madison University. 
 
As HDMA’s senior director of federal government affairs, Freitas has been instrumental in building relationships on Capitol Hill that have contributed to the association’s recent legislative successes, including the passage of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 471) by the House of Representatives. In her new position, Freitas will continue to lead HDMA’s federal advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill along with managing HDMA’s PAC and other grassroots activities. 
 
Prior to joining HDMA, Freitas worked as manager, government affairs for PacifiCare Health Systems, and before that, for a specialty nursing association as well as the National Association for Chain Drug Stores. Prior to NACDS, she served as a director of outreach for former Rep. Dick Chrysler, R-Mich. 
 
Freitas holds a degree in International Relations from Michigan State University and an MPA from George Mason University.
 
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J&J study finds that over-the-hill is a lot younger than you think

BY Michael Johnsen

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A study conducted by Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions and published in PLOS ONE Wednesday revealed that a "tipping point" in adult health occurs at age 45.5, after which health starts declining at an accelerated rate. After this point, an "avalanche" of increasing health issues leads to a spike in morbidity and healthcare costs.
 
The scientific paper, titled "The Avalanche Hypothesis and Compression of Morbidity: Testing Assumptions through Cohort-Sequential Analysis," tests the Compression of Morbidity model. This model suggests that there is a breakpoint, sometime during the adult lifespan, which separates an initial period of relatively good health from a subsequent period of ever increasing morbidity. This theory had never been empirically tested before. Using sophisticated analysis, the research team, which included Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions behavioral scientists, tested a study sample of 55,550 adults enrolled in a healthcare program over a three-year period.
 
Results of the study indicate that in people who produce medical claims annually after age 45.5, their health deteriorates exponentially rather than linearly with age. In addition, the study found that the tipping point for healthcare costs actually occurs six years earlier, at age 39.5 years, when these costs begin to rapidly accelerate. This finding needs further research to provide an insight into this counter-intuitive result.
 
"The 'Avalanche' concept has wide-ranging implications for health and the business of healthcare," said Jennifer Turgiss, VP behavior science and analytics at Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions. "This study validates an existing model that suggested that once an initial disease state occurs in older adult life, others follow. Prevention of the first disease remains an important strategy to delay or avoid a 'tipping point' in middle-aged adults. Prevention and health maintenance need to begin early in life, well before the 'avalanche' of health issues and their associated costs begin."
 
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May-28-2015 09:28 am

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Consuming omega-3 fatty acids enhances cognitive flexibility, study suggests

BY Michael Johnsen

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – A study of older adults at risk of late-onset Alzheimer's disease found that those who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids did better than their peers on tests of cognitive flexibility – the ability to efficiently switch between tasks – and had a bigger anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region known to contribute to cognitive flexibility.
 
The analysis suggests, but does not prove, that consuming DHA and EPA, two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, enhanced cognitive flexibility in these adults in part by beefing up the anterior cingulate cortex, the researchers reported last week in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
 
"Recent research suggests that there is a critical link between nutritional deficiencies and the incidence of both cognitive impairment and degenerative neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease," said University of Illinois neuroscience, psychology, and speech and hearing science professor Aron Barbey, who led the study with student Marta Zamroziewicz. "Our findings add to the evidence that optimal nutrition helps preserve cognitive function, slow the progression of aging and reduce the incidence of debilitating diseases in healthy aging populations."
 
The researchers focused on aspects of brain function that are sometimes overlooked in research on aging, Zamroziewicz said. "A lot of work in cognitive aging focuses on memory, but in fact cognitive flexibility and other executive functions have been shown to better predict daily functioning than memory does," she said.
 
"Executive function" describes processes like planning, reasoning, paying attention, problem solving, impulse control and task switching.
 
"These functions tend to decline earlier than other cognitive functions in aging," Zamroziewicz said.
 
The new research built on previous studies that found associations between omega-3 fatty acid consumption, cognitive flexibility and the size of the anterior cingulate cortex.
 
"There's been some work to show that omega-3 fatty acids benefit cognitive flexibility, and there's also been work showing that cognitive flexibility is linked to this specific brain region, the anterior cingulate. But there's been very little work actually connecting these pieces," Zamroziewicz said.
 
The new study focused on 40 cognitively healthy older adults between the ages of 65 and 75 who are carriers of a gene variant (APOE e4) that is known to contribute to the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease.
 
The researchers tested participants' cognitive flexibility, measured levels of the fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in their blood, and imaged their brains using MRI. Statistical analyses teased out the relationships between these factors.
 
"We wanted to confirm that higher omega-3 fatty acids related to better cognitive flexibility, and we did in fact see that," Zamroziewicz said. "We also wanted to confirm that higher omega-3 fatty acids related to higher volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, and we saw that. Finally, we were able to show that higher volume in the anterior cingulate cortex was an intermediary in the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive flexibility."
 
 
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