Saturday, April 15, 2006

Aetna Promotes Generic Prescription Use

Aetna Offers A Copay-Free Period In New Jersey to Promote Appropriate Generic Use HARTFORD, Conn., April 13, 2006 — Beginning this month, Aetna (NYSE: ΑET) is launching a six-month pilot program in the New Jersey area that waives copays for fully insured members changing to generic from brand name proton pump inhibitors (PPI) to treat heartburn or similar symptoms. Commercial plan members currently filling prescriptions for certain brand name PPIs are eligible for the copay waiver, if they switch therapy to the generic omeprazole 20mg (the generic for Prilosec®).

The free copay program is part of an aggressive effort by Aetna Pharmacy Management (APM) to encourage individuals to use generic drugs, where appropriate and with the approval of their physician.

The switch to generics can help employers and employees save on the rising cost of prescription drugs. "There is a tremendous opportunity to help consumers and employers save by increasing appropriate utilization of generic drugs and this program seeks to raise awareness of savings through generics," said Eric Elliott, head of APM. "The message of this program is simple: if generic drugs are prescribed whenever appropriate, health care costs can be responsibly controlled without any adverse impact on the quality of care." The cost of the generic Prilosec is on average $140 less than the cost of certain branded drugs in the PPI class.

Experts generally agree that generic Prilosec is equally effective as the more expensive branded drugs in the PPI class in the vast majority of patients. Aetna estimates that more than 19,000 of its members in the New Jersey area are now receiving PPI medications, at an annual cost of $3 million. Generic alternatives are increasingly becoming available as the patents of well-known branded drugs expire. The use of generic drugs has been increasing nationally as consumers accept them as safe and effective, at a fraction of the cost of the brands they replace.

According to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, half the prescriptions being filled in the U.S. are for generics, but annual expenditures for those medications only represent between 10 and 15 percent of the cost for prescriptions in the U.S. Elliott said APM is monitoring the patent expirations of other branded drugs this year, including the highly utilized cholesterol lowering drug, Zocor. APM will implement other initiatives to encourage its members to use generic medications that are chemically and therapeutically equivalent to more expensive brand name medications, such as Zocor, which sees its patent expire this July.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Horizon BCBS to Launch 'My Health Manager'

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and Webmd Team Up to Launch My Health Manager

(Newark, NJ, - April 6, 2006) – Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) and WebMD Health Corp. (Nasdaq: WBMD) have teamed up to provide Horizon BCBSNJ’s members an exciting and valuable new service called My Health Manager.

The new online service is a personalized, interactive health application that provides Horizon BCBSNJ members with tools and health information resources they need to better assess, track, and manage their health. “Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey members now have access to reliable health information in the privacy of their own home whenever they need it through My Health Manager,” said William J. Marino, President and CEO of Horizon BCBSNJ. “Working with WebMD, we are making health care easier by putting at our members’ fingertips a powerful new tool and tremendous health resources.” With My Health Manager, Horizon BCBSNJ members have secure access to their own, individualized health homepage any time, day or night.

Each member’s homepage contains decision-support and health management tools and resources to facilitate informed decision-making and to provide assistance with specific conditions or concerns. Available resources include:

Health Assessment Tool – A comprehensive self-assessment questionnaire that scores health status, determines health risks, and provides specific recommendations to improve the member’s health.

Symptom Checker – An interactive tool that allows one to evaluate various health symptoms through a quick series of questions and get information on potential causes and possible treatments for discussion with their physician.

Personal Health Record – An online health record that allows each member to store, manage and maintain all of their health information in a centralized location.

Hospital Quality Comparison Tool – A decision-support tool that offers comparisons of hospitals on the basis of quality and cost for a specific diagnosis or needed medical procedure.
Treatment Cost Estimator – A decision-support tool that allows one to estimate all costs related to 350 different procedures, conditions, tests and office visits.

Lifestyle Improvement Modules and Trackers – Customized, self-guided programs for exercise, nutrition, smoking cessation, pregnancy and other issues related to lifestyle and healthy living.
Medication Center – A hub for members to learn about and manage medications, including a drug library, interactions checker, medications record, news and articles, and the ability to setup automatic dosage or reorder reminders.

My Health Manager also features Health Newsletter e-Subscriptions, a Secure Message Center, a Health Encyclopedia and other helpful tools for managing one’s personal health.
“WebMD shares Horizon BCBSNJ’s commitment to helping people better manage their health,” said Wayne Gattinella, President and CEO, WebMD. "By providing access to comprehensive health information and resources, we are able to help members make more informed medical and financial decisions."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Film Competition Addresses HIV/AIDS in the Black Community

This press release was provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation...

The Rap-It-Up/Black AIDS Short Subject Film Competition Returns For a Third Year of Addressing HIV/AIDS in the Black Community...Winning Film Will Air On BET And Submitted To Independent Film Festivals

WASHINGTON (February 7, 2006) – BET, the Black AIDS Institute, and the Kaiser Family Foundation today announced the 3rd Annual Rap-It-Up/Black AIDS Short Subject (RIU/BASS) Film Competition. Following two successful years that include over 1000 screenplay submissions and four winning short films, the competition provides a platform to creatively explore issues that surround HIV/AIDS in African-American, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-Latin communities in the U.S., including stigma and discrimination, Black male sexuality, homophobia, and perceptions of masculinity, femininity and gender roles.

The winning film will air on BET sometime around World AIDS Day (December 1, 2006), and be submitted to independent film festivals around the world. Today in the United States, Black Americans represent the majority of people living with HIV/AIDS, dying from HIV, and being diagnosed with AIDS.

Black men have the highest AIDS case rates of any group in the nation, followed by Black women. In some cities, Black men who have sex with men are estimated to be infected with HIV at rates as high as those in sub-Saharan Africa. Screenplay submissions that address these issues are welcome. The competition seeks to encourage attention to fresh and culturally unique storylines that encompass HIV/AIDS issues within the Black community, including bringing attention to under explored topics.

Entries are due by May 26, and will be carefully reviewed by a prominent panel of judges. The winner will be announced on August 1 and will receive up to $25,000 to produce their winning short film. “Presently, minority Americans represent seventy-one percent of new AIDS cases, while at least half of all new HIV infections are estimated to be among young adults under the age of twenty-five,” said Kelli Richardson Lawson, BET’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Marketing.

“Our Rap-It-Up films serve as an important resource in educating viewers about a deadly epidemic that continues to disproportionately affect African Americans at an alarming rate. This film competition not only explores social issues and themes that are rarely discussed in our communities, but also arms everyone with the information necessary to prevent the disease.”
“The shocking truth is that in 2006, AIDS in America is a Black disease. Behavior determines who is and who isn’t at risk for HIV. Cultural norms dictate behavioral norms, and films have the power to drive cultural norms,” stated Phill Wilson, Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute. “Recently released statistics show an AIDS epidemic among Black Gay men that outstrips anything we are seeing in the worst hit parts of sub-Saharan Africa. When nearly 50 percent of Black gay and bisexual men in some of our nation’s cities may already be infected with HIV, we have a pandemic in this country of catastrophic proportions and each of us must rise to the occasion.” “The Rap-It-Up/Black AIDS short subject film competition has proven to be a powerful way to explore critical issues that affect African Americans in communities throughout the U.S,” said Tina Hoff, Vice President and Director of Entertainment Media Partnerships at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Given the epidemic’s significant and disproportionate impact on African Americans in this country, it’s essential to bring attention to the personal challenges related to HIV/AIDS.” Last year’s RIU/BASS film competition awarded two winners for their powerful screenplays depicting HIV/AIDS in the Black community.

The extraordinary writing team of Drew Anderson, Justin Follin, Charneice Fox and Michelle Sewell from Washington, DC, won for their stirring screenplay “Multitude of Mercies,” a story depicting how a young Black minister personally deals with HIV/AIDS in his church. Michelle Lynne Coons of Los Angeles also won for her poignant screenplay, “Let's Talk,” which deals with how to raise the issue of HIV testing in the context of a burgeoning relationship.