HEALTH

Johnson & Johnson/Life Scan partners with consumer advocate

BY Michael Johnsen

MILPITAS, Calif. To help people with diabetes get the most value for their healthcare dollar, Johnson & Johnson/LifeScan, maker of OneTouch branded blood glucose meters, has teamed with consumer advocate and syndicated columnist Jim Miller.

“People with diabetes are especially challenged [in today’s economy] because their healthcare costs are twice as high as those of people without diabetes,” stated Alan Cariski, VP worldwide medical safety and external affairs at LifeScan. “While it may be tempting to cut back on healthcare spending by skipping medications or reducing blood glucose testing, we’re working to remind people how important it is to follow the diabetes care regimen recommended by their healthcare professional to help safeguard their health.”

Miller and OneTouch offer the following tips, which include ways to reduce co-pays and find savings through employers and lifestyle modifications – all of which can help people with diabetes maintain their physical and financial health.

For people with health insurance, Miller recommends that consumers:

  • Talk to their pharmacist or insurance company to make sure they’re getting prescriptions and testing supplies at the lowest co-pay. If not, they should talk to their physician about switching prescriptions to the products with the lowest co-pays covered by their health plan. 
  • Buy prescriptions in quantity. For example, a three-month prescription may save money on dispensing fees, which can make it less expensive than buying it month to month. Take advantage of a flexible spending account, if offered by their employer. It reduces taxes by letting consumers pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses and over-the-counter products with pre-tax dollars.
  • Find out if their employer health plan offers any special programs for individuals with chronic conditions that may provide certain needed prescriptions and products for free. For instance, United Healthcare has recently launched a diabetes plan with incentives for prevention.

For people with inadequate or no insurance, Miller suggests consumers:

  • Search for one of the many free or low-cost programs, including individual pharmacy plans, that offer assistance with getting prescriptions or supplies for those who qualify. Good resources for researching these programs include: www.TogetherRxAccess.com; www.Access2wellness.com; www.pparx.org; www.rxassist.org; and www.needymeds.org.
  • Look into free or low-cost health clinics. Federally funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, there are thousands of health centers around the U.S. that provide low-cost healthcare to people based on financial need.

For all people with diabetes, Miller recommends:

  • For those overweight — diet and exercise; for those who smoke — quit; for those who drink — do so only in moderation.
  • Plan healthy meals with free tools such as the American Diabetes Association’s MyFoodAdvisor (www.diabetes.org/myfoodadvisor) and LifeScan’s www.OneTouchGold.com.

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HEALTH

GAO report on BTC feasibility inconclusive

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The U.S. Government Accountability Office, tasked with updating a 1995 report regarding the feasibility behind a third-class of drugs in the United States, on Monday released documents suggesting that its comparable study of behind-the-counter drugs in other countries was inconclusive.

“The impact of restricted nonprescription drug classes on availability is unclear,” the report stated. “Pharmacist-, infrastructure- and cost-related issues would have to be addressed before a BTC drug class could be established in the United States. For example, ensuring that pharmacists provide BTC counseling and that pharmacies have the infrastructure to protect consumer privacy would be important. Issues related to the cost of BTC drugs would also require consideration. For example, the availability of third-party coverage for BTC drugs would affect consumers’ out-of-pocket expenditures and pharmacists’ compensation for providing BTC services would need to be examined.”

Arguments supporting and opposing a BTC drug class in the United States have been based on public health and healthcare cost considerations, according to the GAO report, and reflect general disagreement on the likely consequences of establishing such a class. Proponents of a BTC drug class suggest it would lead to improved public health through increased availability of nonprescription drugs and greater use of pharmacists’ expertise. Opponents are concerned that a BTC drug class might become the default for drugs switching from prescription to nonprescription status, thus reducing consumers’ access to drugs that otherwise would have become available OTC. They also argue that pharmacists might not be able to provide high-quality BTC services.

Proponents of a BTC drug class point to potentially reduced costs through a decrease in the number of physician visits and a decline in drug prices that might result from switches of drugs from prescription to nonprescription status. However, opponents argue that out-of-pocket costs for many consumers could rise if third-party payers elect not to cover BTC drugs.

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GNC doesn’t waste opportunity with ”Amazing Race” star Keoghan

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH GNC on Monday announced its sponsorship of Phil Keoghan’s new Ride Across America, which kicks off in Los Angeles March 28 and ends in New York May 9.

“This is a great time to talk up the value of biking … it’s not only good for your wallet but it also does wonders for your waistline as well,” Keoghan said. “GNC, with its Live Well approach to living a healthy lifestyle, is a great partner as we take that message across America. The Live Well mandate has perfect synergy with my personal philosophy called NOW (No Opportunity Wasted), which is all about living life to the fullest. Together with GNC, we want to share our message with as many people as possible during my 3,600-mile journey while at the same time raising awareness for the National MS Society, a fantastic charity I have actively supported for years.”

As part of the sponsorship, GNC’s on-site research and development team helped develop Keoghan’s nutritional plan and will be providing The Amazing Race star with nutritional supplements for his daily dietary needs, including: GNC Maximum Greens Complete, Pro Performance AMP Amplified Whey Protein, Pro Performance AMP Amplified Maxertion N.O., Cytosport CytoMax Pre-Formance, Cytosport CytoMax Sport Drink, Mega Men Sport Vitapak, Powerbar Gels and NOW One Square Meal.

“All of us at GNC and the National MS Society are extremely impressed with [Keoghan’s] commitment and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle and to his fundraising efforts for the National MS Society,” stated Tom Dowd, EVP stores, operations and development for GNC.  “Having been fans of the The Amazing Race and [Keoghan] from the first season, we recognized what a great opportunity this was to partner with [Keoghan] and raise money and awareness for Bike MS and the National MS Society.

“We’re also very excited to have the opportunity to be the sole retailer of [Keoghan’s] fantastic tasting nutritional diet and sports bar, NOW One Square Meal, a total meal replacement that is guaranteed to be a top seller at our GNC stores,” Dowd said.

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