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Survey: Diabetes drugs now costliest

BY Drew Buono

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. —Diabetes treatments have become the leading driver of prescription drug spending growth, replacing lipid-lowering agents—which fell from the top spot after a decade-long reign—due largely to generic drugs cutting the cost of treating high cholesterol, according to a new report.

The report, by Medco Health Solutions, shows that despite continued growth in the use of cholesterol drugs, spending fell 8.5 percent in 2007 as usage of lower-cost generic versions of Pravachol and Zocor expanded in the marketplace, resulting in cholesterol medications experiencing the greatest spending decline of all drug categories. Meanwhile, spending on diabetes drugs increased 12 percent, driven by shifts to higher-cost treatments, brand-name drug price inflation and moderate growth in the number of patients receiving treatment.

While utilization of diabetes medications only increased a moderate 2.3 percent during 2007, the cost of diabetes treatments rose sharply as patients shifted to newer drugs. According to the makers of these drugs, these recently introduced medications have advantages over older drugs, as they tend to be faster-acting and can help patients better maintain consistent blood sugar levels and prevent complications from the disease.

“The diabetes epidemic and the introduction of new products are reshaping prescription spending patterns,” said Medco chief medical officer Robert Epstein. “The number of people diagnosed with diabetes is increasing by about a million patients per year—meaning more people need complex drug therapies to control their blood sugar. While medications are critical for controlling the disease, many of these cases could have been prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes, such as diet or exercise.”

Diabetes patients can take up to three medications to help keep in check the chronic disease, which affects about 21 million Americans.

The report also showed that spending in the anemia drug category fell by more than 15 percent in 2007, driven by new safety warnings on such drugs as Johnson & Johnson’s Procrit, and Amgen’s Epogen and Aranesp, indicating that high doses may be linked to cardiovascular and cancer-related risks.

Antidepressants also fell, as spending decreased by more than 8 percent. This was mostly due to generic introductions of such blockbusters drugs as Pfizer’s Zoloft and GlaxoSmithKline’s Wellbutrin XL.

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Michaelson to leave FreshDirect for Supervalu

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK FreshDirect has announced that chief executive officer Steve Michaelson will leave the company to join Supervalu as chief marketing officer.

He previously worked for Weis Markets, where he began working in 2002.

His replacement will be Richard Braddock, who became chairman of the Internet grocery company in 2004. He had previously worked at Citibank and Priceline.com. “I chose to increase my involvement with the company because I love the business and I think it has great growth potential,” Braddock told Crain’s New York. “Over the past years I’ve developed a deep respect for the FreshDirect team and am looking forward to helping unlock the potential of this company.”

Based in Long Island City, N.Y., FreshDirect delivers groceries around the New York area. It is a private company. Supervalu has headquarters in Minneapolis.

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CVS Caremark employees to take part in Easter Seals events

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. This year, thousands of CVS Caremark associates nationwide are expected to participate in Easter Seals Walk With Me events as part of the CVS Caremark All Kids Can program.

Since 2006, the company and its private foundation have contributed more than $4 million to Easter Seals, including CVS Caremark All Kids Can Fund gifts to support Easter Seals autism services, and a commitment to Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago’s Therapeutic Day School and Center for Autism Research, scheduled to open this fall. In addition, each year CVS Caremark has been a sponsor for Easter Seals Walk With Me events and employee teams have shown their support through Walk With Me pledges and local Easter Seals fundraisers.

On Saturday, hundreds of CVS Caremark employees in Providence, R.I., will converge at Roger Williams Park Zoo to raise money for local children with disabilities. Walkers in Saturday’s event will include about 350 CVS Caremark employees and their families, who expect to raise more than $75,000 to expand Easter Seals’ early intervention services in the state.

Since 2006, some 7,000 employees have raised more than $1 million through walks for local Easter Seals affiliates.

“In Rhode Island, 14 percent of children under 18 have a disability, and nationally, 9.2 percent of American families with children have at least one child with disability,” stated Eileen Howard Dunn, senior vice president of corporate communications and community relations at CVS Caremark. “CVS Caremark is committed to improving the lives of children with disabilities through our All Kids Can program. We are very proud that so many of our employees are helping us support Easter Seals in expanding its extraordinary services to even more children.”

Inspiring employees during Saturday’s walk is a local girl named Lily May, who was born with disabilities, but who has succeeded far beyond through Easter Seals’ early intervention services.

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