PHARMACY

Though fewer Americans smoke, cost in treating related health issues still great

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA Fewer U.S. adults smoke, but cigarette smoking continues to impose substantial health and financial costs on society, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday.

“The good news, we continue to see fewer people smoking,” said Janet Collins, director of CDC?s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “The bad news is we need more people to quit. Quitting smoking is the most important step smokers can take to improve their health and protect the health of nonsmoking family members. Smokers should be aware that there are treatments and services available to help them quit now more than ever before. Smokers can more than double their likelihood of successfully quitting by using medications and telephone counseling.”

An estimated 19.8 percent of U.S. adults (43.4 million people), were current smokers in 2007, down from 20.8 percent in 2006, according to a study in CDC?s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released in advance of the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 20. However, based on the current rate of decline, it is unlikely that the national health objective of reducing the prevalence of adult cigarette smoking to 12 percent or lower will be met by 2010.

Smoking causes at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths, including more than 80 percent of lung cancer deaths, and 80 percent of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking is responsible for early cardiovascular disease and death.

Nov. 20 marks the American Cancer Society?s 32nd Great American Smokeout. The event encourages smokers to quit for at least one day in the hope that this might help them to stop using tobacco permanently.

“If we want to see far more people quit smoking, we need expanded access to stop-smoking programs, continued progress in eliminating secondhand smoke exposure and ongoing investment in programs that work,” Matthew McKenna, director of CDC?s Office on Smoking and Health said. “If, starting in 2009, all states were to fully implement tobacco control programs at CDC-recommended levels of investment, an estimated five million fewer people in this country would smoke within five years, and hundreds of thousands of premature tobacco-related deaths would be prevented each year.”

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CVS Caremark taps Brennan as executive VP, chief medical officer

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark has appointed former Aetna executive Troyen Brennan as executive vice president and chief medical officer.

In this newly created role, Brennan will be responsible for MinuteClinic, Accordant Health Care, clinical and medical affairs, and health care strategy.

Most recently, Brennan served as chief medical officer for Aetna, the nation’s third largest health insurer. At Aetna, Brennan was responsible for clinical operations, national quality management, disease management and other programs. Before Aetna, Brennan was president and chief executive officer of Brigham and Women?s Physicians Organization in Boston, and also previously served that hospital as director of quality measurement and improvement. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Troy Brennan is a highly regarded national health care expert who not only understands the challenges of health care today, but has hands on experience with all aspects of the health care delivery system. As a former practicing physician, hospital administrator with background in quality care measurement, and leader of a top health care insurer, Troy’s experience will help strengthen our company’s integrated approach to improving access, affordability and quality of care,” said Tom Ryan, chairman, chief executive officer and president of CVS Caremark. “He is a great addition to our management team.”

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Walgreens unveils MedMonitor Complete; program will reduce costs, company says

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens Health Services today unveiled a new drug utilization management program aimed at promoting prescription compliance among patients and holding down total healthcare costs.

The program, called MedMonitor Complete, is holistic in its approach, Walgreens noted. It uses an advanced, automated patient-matching process to provide a single clinical view of a patient, and maintains the patient’s claims history, even if they’ve changed their name, employer group or cardholder identification number.

MedMonitor integrates prescription and medical claims to review an entire population and identify patients’ risks for adverse drug events, according to the company. It also looks at the potential for patients’ non-compliance to “clinically appropriate standards of therapy.”

To boost compliance, clinical pharmacists communicate directly with patients and/or their health care professionals to alert them to drug-related problems such as over- or under-utilization, or opportunities to benefit from additional therapy. This process “effectively minimizes patient disruption while arming health care professionals with the necessary information to improve patient care,” Walgreens Health Services noted in a statement.

One large-scale application of the intervention program yielded $54 in savings per member per month, WHS added.

“Our goal with MedMonitor Complete is to provide healthcare professionals the most clinically relevant information that yields the greatest impact,” said Jim Langman, Walgreens’ vice president of clinical services. “The program’s impact calculations are pure, not artificially inflated with brand-to-generic conversions, step therapies and prior authorizations.”

Langman added that the results are “fully transparent,” allowing benefit managers to “clearly see reduced cost and positive health outcomes for their members.”

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