HEALTH

CDC, Reckitt Benckiser develop site to promote good health, hygiene

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK On the surface, this news highlights how serious the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention take that “prevention” piece of their title. The fact of the matter is the novel H1N1 influenza pandemic, the virus that ran rampant in the spring, giving the United States a little taste of what could come, will be the top billing this coming cough-cold-flu season. To date, the virus has not mutated in the past few months as it ran its course through the influenza season of the southern hemisphere, which means that Americans can expect more of the same here — an influenza strain that produces illness severity comparable to the seasonal flu but that favors younger people because they have no antibodies in reserve against this novel H1N1 virus.

Younger people not only means the twenty- and thirtysomethings in the workforce, it also means their school-age children. And given that children are oftentimes blamed for spreading colds and flu in a typical year, it only goes to reason that children may be a good spreader of the H1N1 pandemic virus, too. With this partnership, the CDC is making a robust effort in educating both children and their parents in proper cold/flu etiquette, because the cheapest way to nip this bug from the get-go is to inhibit its spread.

Going one level deeper, it also shows how quickly today’s administration will turn to private business in an attempt “to get things done.” The assumption here is that it’s not the CDC putting up the funds to launch this Web site, but Reckitt Benckiser. And in turn, Reckitt Benckiser gets a very credible driver around its Lysol disinfectant brand.

That bodes well for retail pharmacy and the healthcare companies that supply them. Because it bears a recognition what the private sector brings to the table — ready access to consumers who may be more apt to pay attention when the credibility of government agencies like CDC is married to the credibility associated with a venerable brand. Today it’s Reckitt Benckiser’s Lysol. Tomorrow it could very well be CVS or Walgreens.

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Report: Primary care physicians decreasing, giving way to retail clinic use

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK The shortage of primary care physicians is bound to escalate as long hours, lower pay, less prestige and more administrative headaches are turning doctors instead toward more lucrative subspecialties, according to a recent USA Today report.

With primary care losing its pull, retail-based health clinics will play an increasingly important role in the frontline for wellness and preventative-care programs.

The number of U.S. medical school students going into primary care has plummeted 51.8% since 1997, USA Today reported, citing data from the American Academy of Family Physicians. The AAFP, which represents more than 93,000 physicians, predicts a shortage of 40,000 family physicians in 2020, when demand is expected to spike.

The report also states that the U.S. healthcare system has roughly 100,000 family physicians and will need nearly 140,000 in 10 years. At the core of the demand: The 78 million Baby Boomers who begin to turn 65 in 2011 and will require increasing medical care.

Furthermore, the need for more doctors will rise if Congress passes healthcare legislation that extends insurance coverage to a significant portion of the 47 million Americans who lack insurance, USA Today reported.

Finding a physician will become more difficult, waits for appointments will grow longer and more people will turn to emergency rooms, which are already overflowing, Ted Epperly, president of the AAFP, told USA Today.

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Teva launches ‘Patient First’ project

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Most consumers may not know a lot about biosimilar equivalence, immunogenicity or what “monoclonal antibody” means, but they know that battling a chronic disease can be a frightening and financially devastating prospect. Teva’s new TV campaign is a very sobering reminder of what many already know at a time when all of America is focused on fixing health care.

 

On one end of the continuum of prescription drug prices lies generic drugs purchased under one of the growing number of generic discount programs offered by retailers for less than $50 a year. On the other end lies biotech drugs that can cost nearly half a million dollars a year.

 

 

This is a reminder to politicians and voters that for many patients, manageable diseases carry unmanageable costs. This especially is true for such diseases as cancer, multiple sclerosis and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. Rob Day, one of the patients profiled in the “Patient First” campaign — itself a part of the broader Year of Affordable Healthcare campaign — was diagnosed with PNH at age 19 and must pay $389,000 a year for biotech drugs to treat it.

 

 

While $389,000 is an extreme example, most biotech drugs remain incredibly expensive: A year’s supply of Genentech’s breast cancer drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) costs about $40,000, while a single vial of Elan Corp.’s multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri (natalizumab) costs more than $2,000. Setting up a regulatory environment that allows expensive biotech drugs to face competition from biosimilars would help to alleviate the fears and financial strain of some patients living with chronic illnesses.

 

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