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New e-reader cases by LightWedge for NYT available next month

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — LightWedge has created a series of e-reader covers for the New York Times Store.

The e-reader covers are adorned with photographs from NYT archives. Three of the new covers, which feature images of the New York City skyline, Statue of Liberty and Flatiron Building, made their debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The New York Times covers by LightWedge will be priced at $49.99 and will be available next month at the New York Times Store online and through several national retailers.

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While parents turn away from vaccines, U.S. pharmacies make them more accessible

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — In 2011, refusing to inoculate children against dangerous illnesses like measles, whooping cough and even the flu, borders on child abuse. This story should go a long way toward keeping a lot of kids healthy by educating their misguided parents—good news for retail pharmacy, which continues to expand its presence as the local community destination for common vaccinations.

(THE NEWS: MMR vaccine, autism link was fabricated, medical journal says. For the full story, click here)

Retail pharmacy certainly played a key role in addressing the recent outbreak of whooping cough in California this past fall. In response to that epidemic, Walgreens announced that its pharmacists in California were offering pertussis immunizations (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis-Tdap vaccine) at select stores throughout the state. And more recently, Walgreens exemplified retail’s full potential capacity in administering vaccine to the general public as part of its alliance with the Department of Health and Human Services that offered free flu vaccinations to as many as 350,000 low-income and uninsured Americans.

HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius in September stated the new alliance with Walgreens was an “important new partnership with the department of HHS and [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to help increase flu vaccination rates across the country. … By making the flu shot more accessible for more Americans, we can prevent the flu from spreading, and certainly save lives.”

Make no mistake, there but for the grace of God goes the United States in terms of an outbreak of measles in this country. The United Kingdom, which, similarly to the United States, had eliminated the epidemic potentiality of measles, saw their vaccination rates dip to 80% of the population and is experiencing a measles outbreak again.

In the United States, there only has been a slight dip in vaccination rates, but still enough to cause concern among the healthcare professionals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Between 2008 and 2009, MMR coverage fell from 92.1% down to 90%,” CDC’s director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Anne Schuchat told reporters during a September 2010 press conference. “That might be a warning sign of larger drops to come,” she said. “You can still have communities with very large pockets of susceptible children. What we saw in 2008 were communities where certain schools had a large number of children who were unvaccinated when the virus was imported from other countries where measles still are very common. The virus could find a vulnerable population to spread in.”

She continued, “Vaccine-preventable diseases are everywhere around the world. We are lucky here in the U.S. that most of these are at record low levels. … With measles, we can never let down our guard in any community where there is a large number of susceptibles. You can see a measles outbreak. While we have been able to maintain our status as having eliminated the indigenous spread of measles, unfortunately, we saw a country like the United Kingdom, which had eliminated measles, unable to break the chains of transmission and now continuing to be facing a large outbreak.”

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Boomer birthdays, Universal American acquisition put CVS at top of Medicare Part D game

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The news that CVS Caremark has entered an agreement to acquire the Medicare Part D business of Universal American is important on several fronts: Not only will the deal more than double the size of CVS Caremark’s Medicare Part D program, but the move also comes just as the first baby boomers turn 65.

(THE NEWS: CVS Caremark acquires Universal American. For the full story, click here)

Universal American’s Part D business currently serves about 1.9 million Medicare PDP members, while CVS Caremark serves roughly 1.2 million Medicare PDP members. These numbers reflect current levels of membership and do not include 2011 auto assignment or the results of the annual enrollment period, which ended Dec. 31, 2010.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of the second quarter. Once completed, CVS Caremark will become one of the nation’s largest providers of prescription drug services for Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part D, which is the federally subsidized prescription benefit program provided to Medicare beneficiaries, those who are ages 65 years and older or who otherwise qualify through disability.

In announcing the acquisition, Per Lofberg, president of Caremark Pharmacy Services, indicated that the Medicare Part D program is "integral to its long-term growth strategy" and a growing portion of the country’s population will receive their prescription drug coverage under Medicare plans due in part to age demographics. And clearly that is the case.

Starting Jan. 1, approximately 7,000 baby boomers will turn 65 each day, according to the AARP. Furthermore, health care is undoubtedly top of mind for many baby boomers.

According to a recent AARP survey on the attitudes, feelings and outlooks of Americans born in 1946 at the beginning of the baby boom generation, an overwhelming majority (84%) said they plan to take better care of their health when asked what changes they expect to make over the next few years.

The study also found that 3-out-of-10 boomers said their health (31%) and personal finances (32%) are in worse condition than they previously expected. And more than a quarter cited money (26%) and health (28%) as the biggest obstacles to achieving their dreams over the next five years.

The survey of 801 people turning 65 years old in 2011 was drawn at random from the United States and conducted by Woelfel Research for AARP. It was conducted by telephone between Nov. 11 and 15, 2010.

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