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Color Me Well – Coloring Books As Rx for Wellness

Coloring books are best sellers in bookstores, craft merchandisers, newspaper stands, and on Amazon. Now, they’re joining the health and wellness world. The market growth of coloring books has been recognized in national media like the Washington Post, who called the phenomenon, “a bright spot in the financial results of publishers and retailers alike.” Nielsen Bookscan estimated that 12 million were sold in 2015, up from 1 million in 2014. Publishers Weekly covered the craze in November 2015. A Forbes column said, “The adult coloring craze continues and there is no end in sight.” Some of the mental health benefits

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Financial Toxicity: The High Cost of Cancer Drugs in the U.S.

Two news items published in the past week point to the yin/yang of cancer survivorship and the high prices of cancer drugs. The good news: a record number of people in the US are surviving cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. That number is 15.5 million Americans, according to a study in the cancer journal CA. Note the demographics of cancer survivors: One-half are 70 years of age and older 56% were diagnosed in the past ten years, and one-third in the past 5 years Women were more likely to have had breast cancer (3.5 mm), uterine cancer (757,000),

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Expect Double-Digit Rx Cost Growth to 2020 – Implications for Oncology

In the U.S., spending on prescription medicines reached $425 bn in 2015, a 12% increase over 2014. For context, that Rx spending comprised about 14% of the American healthcare spend (based on roughly $3 trillion reported in the National Health Expenditure Accounts in 2014). We can expect double-digit prescription drug cost growth over the next five years, according to forecasts in Medicines Use and Spending in the U.S. – A Review of 2015 and Outlook to 2020 from IMS Institute of Healthcare Informatics. The biggest cost growth driver is specialty medicines, which accounted for $151 bn of the total Rx spend

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The Average Price of a New Specialty Drug Exceeds Median U.S. Annual Income; and a Tweet from Pam Anderson

The average price for a specialty drug was $53,384 in 2013; the average household income was $52,250. Thus, even allocating 100% of a family’s annual earnings to pay for a drug wouldn’t stretch far enough to cover it in 2013, nor would it do so today in 2015. This sober health economic artifact comes from the latest Rx Price Watch Report from the AARP, detailing cost trends for prescription drugs across all segments — generics, brands and specialty drugs.  Contrast, as well, the $53K for the average specialty drug with the median 2013 Social Security benefit payout of $15,526 and median Medicare

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Supersize Rx: the impact of specialty drug spending and Hep C in 2014

The number of people in the U.S. spending over $100,000 a year on prescription drugs tripled in 2014, according to Super Spending: U.S. Trends in High-Cost Medication Use, from The Express Scripts Lab. Express Scripts is a pharmacy benefits management company that manages over one billion prescriptions a year. The company analyzed prescription drug claims for 31.5 million health plan members for this study, in commercially insured, Medicare, and Medicaid plans. The big-dollar story in 2014 was Hepatitis C, with a relatively small patient population but a super-sized drug spend as the first chart shows: a very tall blue bar (Rx

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In a world of digital health data, more sick people trade off privacy risks

People managing chronic diseases are more likely to have accessed information in their electronic medical records — and are also less likely to worry about the privacy risks of their personal electronic health information compared with people who are healthy. Over 2,000 people, both those who say they’re healthy and those with chronic conditions, were surveyed by Accenture in February-March 2014, and their responses are summarized in the report, Consumers with Chronic Conditions Believe the Ability to Access Electronic Medical Records Outweighs Concern of Privacy Invasion. Slight more consumers are concerned about privacy risks related to online banking, online shopping,

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What CVS going tobacco-free means for health and business

Bravo! to CVS/pharmacy who today announced it would pull tobacco products from store shelves by October 2014. “The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose,” the company’s press release asserts. The move will cost CVS $1.5 billion in revenue annually, as the company seeks to consolidate its position as a health company. CVS/pharmacy is part of CVS Caremark, which includes the retail pharmacy chain (the second-largest in the U.S.), a pharmacy benefit management company (Caremark), and retail health clinics (Minute Clinics). CVS Caremark also participates in a healthy communities program issuing grants for projects that focus on health

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Schizo about smoking

There’s truly good news for public health about smoking: January 11th marked the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. That’s five decades’ worth of progress raising peoples’ awareness about the toxic impact of nicotine and chemicals embodied in cigarettes, and deleterious impacts on health and the economy. As a result, smoking rates have been cut in half since 1964, as the downward-sloping graph illustrates. With that happy news in my subconscious, I took a long walk, tracked by my digital device, through the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas last week, bound for the 2014 Consumer Electronics

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More chronically ill people use online health resources – but they’re not so social, Pew finds

People who are diagnosed with at least one chronic medical condition are more likely to seek information online, use social media to understand peer patients’ reviews on drugs and treatments, and learn from other patients about their personal health experiences. While that’s encouraging news for a health empowerment headline, the underlying challenge that should prevent congratulatory fist-bumps among patient-engagement proponents is that people living with chronic disease are less likely to have internet access. Why? Because chronically ill people tend to be older and less educated, and they’re also less likely to be working. Simply put, “People living with chronic

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Color us stressed – how to deal

Coast-to-coast, stress is the modus vivendi for most Americans: 55% of people feel stressed in every day life, according to a study from Televox. A Stressful Nation: Americans Search for a Healthy Balance paints a picture of a nation of physically inactive people working too hard and playing too little. And far more women feel the stress than men do. 64% of people say they’re stressed during a typical workday. 52% of people see stress negatively impacting their lives. And nearly one-half of people believe they could better manage their stress. As a result, physicians say that Americans are experiencing negative

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Make health care “feel” more like retail via transparency

Consumers who are well-covered by health insurance are in favor of talking about costs with their doctors. This research finding illustrates the fact that price transparency in health care isn’t just the concern of un- and under-insured people, but that shining the light on the price of health care is everybody’s business. But it’s also the case that most physicians aren’t yet involved in these health-financial conversations with their patients. Two studies presented at the recent 2013 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) learned that patients are keen to know more about health care costs from

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Mobile health apps – opportunity for patients and doctors to co-create the evidence

There are thousands of downloadable apps that people can use that touch on health. But among the 40,000+ mobile health apps available in iTunes, which most effectively drive health and efficient care? To answer that question, the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics analyzed 43,689 health, fitness and medical apps in the Apple iTunes store as of June 2013. These split into what IMS categorized as 23,682 “genuine” health care apps, and 20,007 falling into miscellaneous categories such as product-specific apps, fashion and beauty, fertility, veterinary, and apps with “gimmicks” (IMS’s word) with no obvious health benefit. Among the 23,682 so-called

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Economics of obesity and heart disease: We, the People, can bend the curves

The “O” word drives health costs in America ever-upward. Without bending the obesity curve downward toward healthy BMIs, America won’t be able to bend that stubborn cost curve, either. The Economic Impacts of Obesity report from Alere Wellbeing accounts for the costs of chronic diseases and how high obesity rates play out in the forms of absenteeism, presenteeism, and direct health care costs to employers, workers and society-at-large. Among the 10 costliest physical health conditions, the top 3 are angina, hypertension and diabetes — all related to obesity and amenable to lifestyle behavior change. The top-line numbers set the context:

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7 Women and 1 Man Talking About Life, Health and Sex – Health 2.0 keeping it real

Women and binge drinking…job and financial stress…sleeplessness…caregiving challenges…sex…these were the topics covered in Health 2.0 Conference’s session aptly called “The Unmentionables.” The panel on October 1, 2013, was a rich, sobering and authentic conversation among 7 women and 1 man who kept it very real on the main stage of this mega-meeting that convenes health technology developers, marketers, health providers, insurers, investors, patient advocates, and public sector representatives (who, sadly, had to depart for Washington, DC, much earlier than intended due to the government shutdown). The Unmentionables is the brainchild of Alexandra Drane and her brilliant team at the Eliza

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People not up-close-and-personal about personalized medicine…yet

Only 1 in 4 U.S. adults over 30 know what “personalized medicine” (PM) really is, and only 8% of people feel very knowledgeable about the concept based on Consumer Perspectives on Personalized Medicine from GfK, published online in August 2013. GfK surveyed 602 online adults 30 years and over between February and March 2013 drawn from the company’s KnowledgePanel sample of U.S. adults. Only 4% of people who have heard of personalized medicine describe it accurately as “medicine based on genome/genetic make up.” About one-half of people (52%) defined PM as medical care, treatment, or medicine geared toward individual needs. The poll

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Losing your eyebrows, finding health and beauty

My friend Rachel leads education at Sephora in the King of Prussia Mall in suburban Philadelphia, PA. I’ve come to consider Rachel as my personal guress on all matters related to skin care. She’s a trusted member of my personal health ecosystem. I met with Rachel last week to consult on what lipsticks contain SPFs that could prevent my lips from burning in the sun for my vacation week on Lakes George and Placid. She informed me that very few cosmetic lip products have sufficient sun protection ingredients to protect my lips-on-the-Lakes. We accomplished our consult for my very small

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Angelina and Abercrombie: connecting the dots for healthy body image

This has been a week of shocking contrasts for women’s body image: from the triumphant, empowering public health role model of Angelina Jolie, whose op-ed column, My Medical Choice, appeared in the New York Times on May 14th, to the marketing message snafu of Abercrombie & Fitch. First, the Abercrombie affair: Mike Jeffries, CEO, said the following in a 2006 Salon interview that virally surfaced: “Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that,” identifying the “cool kids” as the company’s target market. “A lot of

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The decline and fall of pharmaceutical spending…short- or long-term phenomenon?

The prescription drug cost curve is bending…for the time being. Spending on medicines fell by 3.5% in 2012 and will continue to fall below overall health spending over the next five years to 2017. But different from general health spending, there’s a new game in town called specialty medicines, and they cost a whole lot more than the generics and the aging brands that bent the cost curve in 2012. The declining Rx spending story is only part of a complicated tale told in great detail in a comprehensive report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, Declining Medicine Use

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Let patients help: the BMJ covers an American ePatient’s learnings

In this week’s BMJ (British Medical Journal), an American patient tells his story about being equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged — the many “e’s” making up the prefix of “ePatient.”  This definition comes out of the work of Dr. Tom Ferguson, who worked with the e-Patient Scholars Working Group in 2007, to publish the first white paper about the phenomenon, e-Patients: how they can help us heal health care. ePatient Dave is the patient-author of the BMJ piece, making the case for shared decision-making and patient involvement in health care decisions. He writes in the conclusion, “The value delivered by skilled

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We are all health deputies in the #digitalhealth era: live from the 2013 Consumer Electronic Show

Reed Tuckson of UnitedHealthGroup was the first panelist to speak at the kickoff of the Digital Health Summit, the fastest-growing aspct of the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (#2013CES). Tuckson implored the spillover audience to all, “self-deputize as national service agents in health,” recognizing that technology developers in the room at this show that’s focused on developers building Shiny New Digital Things have much to bring to health. As Andrew Thompson of Proteus Medical (the “invisible pill” company) said, “we can’t bend the health care cost curve; we have to break it.” This pioneering panel was all about offering new-new technologies

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Wired health: living by numbers – a review of the event

Wired magazine, longtime evangelist for all-things-tech, has played a growing role in serving up health-tech content over the past several years, especially through the work of Thomas Goetz. This month, Wired featured an informative section on living by numbers — the theme of a new Wired conference held 15-16 October 2012 in New York City. This feels like the week of digital health on the east coast of the U.S.: several major meetings have convened that highlight the role of technology — especially, the Internet, mobile platforms, and Big Data — on health. Among the meetings were the NYeC Digital Health conference, Digital

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Wellness and the global health citizen – carrying our own doctors, inside

Every patient carries her or his doctor inside, said the great Renaissance man, Albert Schweitzer. Based on Euro RSCG Worldwide’s Prosumer Report – My Body, Myself, Our Problem: Health and Wellness in Modern Times, health citizens globally have begun to take on Dr. Schweitzer’s vision. Clement Boisseau of Euro RSCG points out that people, globally, are fairly schizophrenic when it comes to thinking about empowerment over illness: check out the chart for perceptions by condition and disease state. Boisseau says that people perceive health today both in modern terms (such as feeling empowered to control some conditions), and archaic or “magically

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Phonecare works – remote health via phones for people with cancer

People with cancer can successfully manage their pain and depression through telephone contact with health providers and home monitoring, demonstrated by a clinical trial conducted among 405 patients in Indiana. The randomized trial findings are published in the July 14, 2010, issue of JAMA in, Effect of Telecare Management on Pain and Depression in Patients With Cancer. In the study, the Indiana Cancer Pain and Depression (INCPAD) trial assessed patients with pain, depression, and both depression and pain. Pain and depression are the most common physical and psychological symptoms in cancer patients, according to an AHRQ Evidence Report/Technology Assessment. These symptoms go largely untreated

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Flipping cancer the bird: can pop culture cure cancer?

70,000 young Americans between 15 and 39 years of age are diagnosed with cancer every year. This population falls in a gap between pediatric and adult cancer. Newly-diagnosed young adults often find themselves in a no-patients’-land, confronting a lack of targeted clinical trials and knowledgeable clinicians in local health markets.The National Cancer Institute says that survival rates for this group of cancer patients haven’t improved in over 30 years.That’s definitely cause to flip cancer the bird, and that’s exactly what the young actor, Zac Efron, has done.Efron is photographed with a young cancer patient, Emily Hobson, to focus on Stupid

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The cost of cancer: can you spell "u-n-d-e-r–i-n-s-u-r-a-n-c-e?"

Published a few months before her death, It’s Always Something is the autobiography from the great Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer 20 years ago at the age of 42.    In the case of cancer, that “something” is all-too-often the case of under-insurance to cover treatment. High out-of-pocket costs for treatment, coupled with insurance premium payments, can force cancer patients to incur big debt or, ultimately, forgo treatment. Spending to Survive is a comprehensive and detailed report from Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and the American Cancer Society (ACS). The report’s subtitle, “cancer patients confront holes in the health

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Purchasing Pink

Pink is all around.    It’s October 1st. The annual proliferation of pink products promoting breast cancer awareness pervades purchasers’ prospective pickings. This year, there are lots of cosmetics to choose from, along with a Filofax, a vacuum cleaner, kitchen appliances, an iPod and various accessories to dress it up, foods, a Swiss army knife, and a set of pink knitting needles. Prevention Magazine online has several suggestions for “Beauty that Gives Back,” cosmetic companies offering products with some percentage of proceeds going to a variety of breast cancer charities. For example, La Mer Skin Creme can be purchased for

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