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Leavitt calls Medicaid costs ‘unsustainable’

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON —As if pharmacy retailers didn’t have enough to worry about in the midst of a bleak economic outlook, the Bush administration issued a grim warning last month about the increasingly costly Medicaid program.

Spending for Medicaid is rising to “unsustainable” levels, and the program’s rapidly rising costs are threatening access to health care for poor and lower-income Americans, Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt warned in mid-October.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is projecting that Medicaid will spend $4.9 trillion over the next 10 years as federal and state administrators struggle to keep up with rising numbers of the poor and uninsured. That marks an average annual increase of 7.9 percent annually, according to federal budgeters.

At that rate, the rise in Medicaid spending will dramatically outpace the U.S. economy’s growth rate, Leavitt warned.

2007 estimated enrollment, expenditures and estimated per-enrollee expenditures, by enrollment group

Source: Department of Health and Human Services*Measured in person-year equivalents
Enrollment group Enrollment* (in millions) Expenditures (in billions) Per-enrollee expenditures
Children 23.5 $57.1 $2,435
Adults 11.1 39.7 3,556
Blind/disabled 8.5 126.7 14,858
Aged (age 65 and over) 5.0 70.9 14,058
Total 48.1 294.4 6,120

CMS released its report Oct. 17, prompting the HHS secretary to paint a grim scenario for the cash-strapped health program for the poor. “This report should serve as an urgent reminder that the current path of Medicaid spending is unsustainable for both federal and state governments,” Leavitt said at a meeting of state budget directors last month. “If nothing is done to rein in these costs, access to health care for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens could be threatened.

“We must act quickly to keep state Medicaid programs fiscally sound,” he added.

Combined, Medicaid and Medicare are expected to gobble up 6.9 percent of the gross domestic product by 2017 at current growth rates, according to HHS. This year, Medicaid will see its rolls swell to a projected 50 million beneficiaries, at an average annual cost per person of $6,120.

During the next 10 years, average enrollment is projected to increase at an average annual rate of 1.2 percent, reaching 55.1 million by 2017, the agency reported. Medicaid accounted for 14.8 percent of all U.S. health-care spending in 2006, and at current growth rates will account for 8.4 percent of total federal outlays within five years, from 7 percent in 2007, CMS reported.

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Alimentary Health signs licensing agreement with P&G Pet Care

BY DSN STAFF

CORK, Ireland Alimentary Health on Wednesday announced that it has signed a worldwide licensing agreement with P&G Pet Care, makers of two of the worlds leading companion animal pet care products, Iams and Eukanuba.

Under the licensing agreement, Alimentary Health’s and P&G’s proprietary pet care probiotics will be used in P&G Pet Care’s nutritional supplement products. The global market for companion animal pet care products was estimated to be over $40 billion in 2007. Alimentary Health will receive an undisclosed royalty on sales of all products containing the pet care probiotics.

In 2001, Alimentary Health partnered with P&G to develop safe and effective probiotic products for gastrointestinal indications. In 2007, P&G Health Care started using Alimentary Health’s natural probiotic strain Bifidobacterium Infantis 35624, in Align in the US. Align is a daily probiotic supplement that helps build and maintain a strong and healthy digestive system.

“Today’s announcement comes as a result of our continued successful collaboration with P&G,” Barry Kiely, chief executive officer of Alimentary Health, said. “We are please that our ongoing efforts have once again resulted in Alimentary Health’s technology making it to the marketplace. This agreement is a result of a successful research and development program between the two companies and it brings us closer to fulfilling our vision of becoming the worldwide leader in the research, discovery and clinical development of probiotics. We are proud of our long standing association with such a leading multi-national company.”

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Kmart holds GoldK Day health services, screening day for seniors

BY Antoinette Alexander

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. Kmart, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears Holding Corp., has announced that its pharmacy division will hold the annual GoldK Day on Nov. 18 for seniors.

“Kmart wants to remind seniors that we care about their health and GoldK Day is a way for our pharmacists to give back to these important customers by not only offering free screenings, but assistance with Medicare health plan selection and information about disease states, which can help seniors make better decisions about their healthcare,” Mark Doerr, vice president of Kmart pharmacy, said.

The activities planned for the event, to be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at all 1,100 Kmart pharmacy locations, include free blood pressure screenings, free memory screenings, Medicare health plan selection assistance and more.

No appointments are necessary. For more information, customers can all 800-866-0086 or visit www.kmart.com/pharmacy.

The initiatives are tied to the efforts of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, the annual initiative aimed at promoting early detection of memory problems and appropriate intervention.

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