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Americans and Prescription Drugs: Cost, Misuse, and Self-Rationing

In 2017, Americans’ relationship with prescription drugs can be characterized in three ways: cost-rationing, misuse, and abuse. Three new studies about medicines in America paint this picture, brought to light by the AARP, Truven Analytics, and Quest Diagnostics. First, let’s look at the cost issue covered by AARP. AARP tracks the cost of prescription drugs among its constituents, namely people 50 years of age and over. The data were published in AARP’s Rx Price Watch Report, Trends in Retail Prices of Specialty Prescription Drugs Widely Used by Older Americans, 2006-2015. The average annual cost for one specialty medication used for

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Health on the High Seas – Mandara Spa on the NCL Breakaway

“Health is very addictive,” Michaela Deeley told me. “The way you feel once you start to feel good… you don’t want to stop.” Michaela is the manager at the Mandara Spa on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship, the Breakaway, which sails weekly from New York City to Bermuda. I appreciated the opportunity to interview Michaela about how medical tourism is a growth business for the cruise industry, and a welcome on-ramp to health and wellness for passengers. “Health on a cruise ship?” you ask. In fact, this area of the146,000 ton ship [which accommodates 3,963 passengers and 1,657 crew is

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Loneliness and Isolation Kill: Health Depends on Purpose

In the U.S., one-third of people age 65 and over have difficulty walking 3 city blocks. Hold that thought, and consider the role of purpose in life: purpose drives well-being, inoculating one’s life with meaning, direction, and goals, as the On Purpose guru Victor Strecher explains in his amazing graphic manifesto. Having a higher sense of purpose in life is associated with higher probability of people engaging in healthier behaviors, such as greater physical activity and seeking preventive healthcare; better biological functioning; and, lower risk of disease. Four researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health connected the dots between

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Learning From Adam Niskar – Living Beyond The Wheelchair

After diving into Walnut Lake in suburban Detroit, Adam Niskar sustained a spinal injury that would paralyze much of his body for the rest of his life. The trauma didn’t paralyze his life and living, though. But today, my family will celebrate that life at Adam’s memorial service. Adam was my cousin. He was one of the best-loved people on the planet, and that was part of a therapeutic recipe that sustained him from the traumatic accident in 1999 until Monday, July 31st, 2017, when Adam passed away from complications due to an infection that, this time around, his body

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Note to Mooch: The ER is Not Universal Health Care

I quote directly from the Twitter feed of Anthony Scaramucci, @scaramucci: “@dhank2525 agree. We already have Univ Health Care, we made decision long ago to treat everyone that enters an emergency room.” Mr. Scaramucci is President Trump’s Communications Chief, replacing Sean Spicer. Mr. Scaramucci is neither veteran journalist nor healthcare policy wonk. He’s a successful businessman, which I respect for his savvy and ability to build a fund, attract investors, and create a media persona which he has telegenically broadcast on CNBC and elsewhere over the past decade. He’s got a engaging public personality, and goes by the moniker, “Mooch.” But

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Helping People On A Path to Better Health with CVS @Retail

“Helping people on their path to better health” is the mission-mantra of CVS Health. Re-branded from its previous identity as CVS/pharmacy, the organization convened a Health Innovation Summit with its vendor partners whose products fill the front-of-store shelves to empower, inspire and support consumers to manage health and wellness for themselves and their families. I was grateful for the opportunity to provide the first talk for the day, setting the context for the evolving retail health/care landscape with the consumer at the center. The consumer is, at any point in a 24-hour day: a person wearing many hats (a worker,

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Medicines in America: The Half-Trillion Dollar Line Item

Prescription drug spending in the U.S. grew nearly 6% in 2016, reaching $450 billion, according to the QuintilesIMS Institute report, Medicines Use and Spending in the U.S., published today. U.S. drug spending is forecasted to grow by 30% over the next 5 years to 2021, amounting to $610 billion. In 2016, per capita (per person) spending on medicines for U.S. health citizens averaged $895. Specialty drugs made up $384 of that total, equal to 43% of personal drug spending, shown in the first chart. Spending on specialty drugs continues to increase as a proportion of total drug spending: traditional medicines’ share

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The Power of Joy in Health and Medicine – Learning From Dr. Regina Benjamin

Former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin was the first person who quoted to me, “Health isn’t in the doctor’s office. It’s where people live, work, play and pray,” imparting that transformational mantra to me in her 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times. I wrote about that lightbulb moment here in Health Populi. Dr. Benjamin was the 18th Surgeon General, appointed by President Obama in 2009. As “America’s Doctor,” she served a four-year term, her mission focused on health disparities, prevention, rual health, and children’s health. Today, Dr. Benjamin wears many hats: she’s the Times Picayune/NOLA.com professor of medicine at

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A New Risk Factor For Mental Health: Climate Change

We make our health across many dimensions: via nutrition, safe physical/built environments, financial wellness, education, and the environment among them. In this last category, the environment, new research finds that climate change has a significant impact on health. The report, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance, was sponsored by the American Psychological Association in conjunction with Climate for Health and ecoAmerica. “Climate change-induced severe weather and other natural disasters have the most immediate effects on mental health in the form of the trauma and shock due to personal injuries, loss of a loved one, damage to

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You Are The Expert of Your Own Health: adidas and The Future of Fit

The future of wellness combines: Connected (you) Social IRL (in-real-life) Banishing bad (de-tabooing what’s traditionally seen as “bad”) Humanizing data, and The end of experts. These insights come from adidas, whose team developed a forecast of the future of fit, announced at the 2017 South-by-Southwest Festival in Austin this weekend. I had the honor of participating in this forecast and shepherding the SXSW panel on The End of Experts: Crowdsourcing Your Wellness at the adidas meet-up held over the weekend. The future of fit and wellness is Connected, because we are growing to understand that balancing many elements in our daily

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Replacing Opioids with Digital Tech for Pain at CES 2017

Pain management is a growing story at CES 2017. I covered the topic of Sleep and Pain at CES one year ago in the Huffington Post, and this year, the category has grown in both number of innovations and mode of pain management. At CES 2017, there were exhibitors of FDA-approved devices, sleep-and-pain focused tech, wristbands for relaxation and nausea-management, and a $5,999 device for calming meditation that’s being used in addiction programs. What’s driving growth and acceptance of this health tech segment is the opioid crisis which has become a public health epidemic across the U.S. The maps with increasing orange

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Consumers Taking Healthcare Into Own Hands at CES 2017

Consumer electronics (CE) aren’t just big screen TVs, sexy cars, and videogames anymore. Among the fastest-growing segments in CE is digital health, and health-tech will be prominently featured at the 2017 CES in Las Vegas hours after the champagne corks have popped at the start of the new year. On the second day of 2017, I’ll be flying to Las Vegas for several days of consumer technology immersion, learning about connected and smart homes and cars, and shiny new things all devoted to personal health. Welcome to my all-health lens on CES 2017, once referred to as the Consumer Electronics

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Medical Tourism On A Cruise Ship

Health is everywhere: where we live, work, play, and learn, as I’ve often written here on Health Populi. While I’ve also analyzed the market for medical tourism over the past twenty years, this week I’ve learned that it extends to the cruise travel industry along with hospitals and clinics around the world. I had the pleasure of meeting up this week with Hannah Jean Taylor, Manager of the Mandara Spa on Norwegian Cruise Line‘s ship, The Norwegian Breakaway. This vessel accommodates nearly 4,000 passengers who enjoy the services of over 1,600 staff members in the hotel, entertainment, and operational crews.

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Naloxone in Retail Health – Helping The Opioid Epidemic at Pharmacies and Grocery Stores

The ranks of pharmacies making available the overdose reversal medication naloxone without a prescription or seeing a doctor, is fast-growing. These announcements from retail pharmacy chains and grocery stores is a collective retail health-response to the opioid epidemic, a mainstream public health challenge across America. Naloxone is used in the event of an overdose. It can reverse the impacts of opioids, administered by injection or nasal spray. The statistics on opioid overdoses in the U.S. are chilling. Mortality (death rate) from opioid overdose in the U.S. grew 200% since 2000. Deaths have been higher among people between 25 and 44 years of

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400 Walking Gallery Jackets and Celebrating Jess Jacobs, the #FirstToFall

In the past week, the patient engagement/empowerment community marked two major events: the achievement of 400 painted patient stories in The Walking Gallery, and the loss of one of our tribe — Jess Jacobs. Jess passed away from complications of a complex condition called POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), made even more complicated by the fragmented, institution-focused (vs. patient-focused) healthcare she received. Jess documented many of her interactions with her health care providers, largely located in the Washington, DC, health care community, on social media–leaving a legacy and evidence on exactly how not to do patient care. You can experience

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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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A Growing Market for DIY Digital Health for Sleep and Pain

Sleeplessness and chronic pain are two epidemics that are mutually-enforcing, as the chart shows. The 2015 Sleep in America Poll found that pain is a key factor in Americans’ “sleep debt:” 21% of people have experienced chronic pain and lose 42 minutes of sleep due to it; 36% have experience acute pain, resulting in 14 minutes of lost sleep each night. People dealing with both conditions project-manage their health in numerous ways, multitasking with over-the-counter meds, prescription drugs (from “lite” to narcotic), meditation, yoga, homeopathic remedies, aural relaxation, Mozart, and more. There are a growing number of digital health tools now

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