HEALTH

Walgreens launches medication adherence app for Apple Watch

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Monday officially launched its app for Apple Watch that helps keep patients adherent to their medication regimens. The Walgreens App for Apple Watch is designed to help patients manage their medications, whether it is a simple, once-daily reminder or multiple complex drug regimens. 
 
“Walgreens apps and services are designed to provide customers with ultimate access, choice and convenience — we want to help remove friction and make the customer experience as simple as possible,” said Sona Chawla, president of digital and chief marketing officer for Walgreens. “Whether that’s launching new wearables technology that promotes adherence and proper health regimens or making it easier, safer, and more private to redeem Balance Rewards points through mobile payments with Apple Pay, we want to help customers manage their lives.”
 
Walgreens also announced the planned integration of Balance Rewards with Apple Pay, coming this fall to stores with the launch of rewards support for Apple Pay. Beginning this fall, Apple Pay will provide immediate access to Balance Rewards without separately scanning a Balance Rewards card. 
 
Additionally, Balance Rewards members will be able to view their current rewards points balance through Apple Pay. The ability to view points directly from the surfaced card provides easier access to loyalty points at checkout and allows users to see how much they can redeem. 
 
The Apple Watch app connects with the user’s Pill Reminders inside the Walgreens iPhone app, and Apple’s “actionable alerts” allow the user to mark a medication as taken or skipped, as well as view which medications might have been missed or may be taken next. Refill Reminders predict when medication may be running low and offer users a one-touch method to initiate a refill. The user will receive a follow-up notification when the medication is ready for pickup.
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NPA adds a significant number of new members to its base

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The Natural Products Association recently announced the addition of 36 new members to the organization through March and April, including Nature's Way Brands. 
 
“The first four months of the year have shown tremendous growth for the organization and it signals that the nation’s oldest and largest trade association is living up to its reputation,” Daniel Fabricant, CEO and executive director of the Natural Products Association, said. 
 
“As President of the NPA, I am so pleased to see so much interest in the organization. The staff is coming up with great grassroots program and NPA is out front of every issue that impacts our members,” NPA president Roxanne Green said. “With all the advocating on behalf of the membership, coupled with the in-house expertise on the science and regulatory front, potential members are seeing the value.”
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CDC: FDA tweaks flu vaccine after moderate to severe flu season

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — The 2014–15 influenza season was moderately severe overall and especially severe in seniors, with the H3N2 virus predominating, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 
 
One reason behind last season’s elevated severity was the ineffectiveness of last year's flu vaccine, which was only 19% effective because of a mismatch between the strains included in the vaccine and the predominant circulating strain last season. The majority of circulating influenza A (H3N2) viruses were different from the influenza A (H3N2) component of the 2014–15 Northern Hemisphere seasonal vaccines, and the predominance of these drifted viruses resulted in reduced vaccine effectiveness. 
 
For this coming season, the Food and Drug Administration's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee earlier this year recommended that the 2015–16 influenza trivalent vaccines used in the United States contain an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, an A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2)-like virus and a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus. Quadrivalent vaccines are also formulated with a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus. This represents a change in the influenza A (H3) and influenza B (Yamagata lineage) components compared with the composition of the 2014–15 influenza vaccine. 
 
For the 2014-15 season, the cumulative rate of influenza-associated hospitalizations among adults over the age of 65 was 319.2 per 100,000 population, exceeding the cumulative total of 183.2 per 100,000 population for the 2012–13 season, which had previously been the highest recorded rate of laboratory-confirmed, influenza-associated hospitalizations since this type of surveillance began in 2005. Among children younger than 5 years old the cumulative hospitalization rate (57.1 per 100,000 population) was slightly less than that observed during the 2012–13 season (66.2 per 100,000 population). 
 
During the 2014–15 influenza season in the United States, influenza activity increased through late November and December before peaking in late December. Influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominated, and the prevalence of influenza B viruses increased late in the season. 
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