Author Archives: Lynn Shepherd

Increased Rx use offsets medical services costs in Medicare

Analysis shows a link between changes in Rx drug use and changes in the use of and spending for medical services.

Analysis shows a link between changes in Rx drug use and changes in the use of and spending for medical services.

A new report by The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recognizes the effect of medicines in offsetting medical services costs for people with Medicare.

Based on their analysis of the costs and use of prescription drugs and other medical services covered through Medicare, the CBO plans to incorporate the offsetting savings associated with prescription drug use in budget estimates of policies affecting Medicare.

Going forward, CBO will assume that any policy that would result in a 1 percent increase in the number of prescription drugs filled in Medicare would correspondingly decrease the spending on medical services in the program by 0.2 percent.

“Previously, when estimating the budgetary effects of legislation regarding prescription drugs, CBO found insufficient evidence of an “offsetting” effect of prescription drug use on spending for medical services” said CBO. “But recently, more analysis has been published that demonstrates a link between changes in prescription drug use and changes in the use of and spending for medical services.”

The CBO has confirmed that this change will only affect those involved with the Medicare program. Further research is necessary to determine whether or not such an offset would be beneficial to other programs such as Medicaid.

To read more on this topic:

  • The CBO report, “Offsetting Effects of Prescription Drug Use on Medicare’s Spending for Medical Services,” is available online here.
  • This blog post by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) said that this historic change to CBO methodology represents a significant step forward in evaluating health care policy and reaching common goals of better outcomes and lower costs.
  • An op-ed by a Wisconsin aging advocate examines some of the potential changes to the Medicare prescription drug benefit currently being debated.
  • AstraZeneca’s most recent posts on Medicare may be found here and here.

Individual differences matter when making treatment decisions

A conference hosted by the National Pharmaceutical Council examines the many factors that go into individual treatment decisions.

When many options are available – medicines, devices, surgery, lifestyle changes – how do doctors and patients decide what is the right course of treatment for that one person at that time? What role do treatment guidelines, research, personal preferences and other factors play in these important decisions? What role should these factors play in determining how treatment options are covered through health insurance?

These questions and others will be examined at a meeting convened by the National Pharmaceutical Council on Friday, November 30 in Washington, DC. The conference, “The Myth of Average—Why Individual Patient Differences Matter,” will explore the role and challenges of individual treatment effects in developing treatment recommendations, practice guidelines, and coverage and reimbursement policies for patients. It is being sponsored by the National Pharmaceutical Council, the National Health Council and WellPoint, as well as 17 other patient, provider and health care organizations.

This conference comes at a critical time in determining how comparative effectiveness research (CER) will be conducted and implemented. As we’ve discussed here, CER studies examine how different types of treatments compare in improving patient health outcomes.

Through a series of expert panels, the conference will address questions about how to balance findings from CER research with the needs of the individual patient. Panelists also will examine how CER might shape future patient care and coverage models being considered by policy leaders and payers.

For more information and to register, please visit www.npcnow.org/myth2012. There is no charge to attend.

AZ simplifies enrollment for people with Medicare Rx coverage

People with Medicare prescription drug coverage will find applying to AZ&Me faster, easier

Applying to AstraZeneca’s AZ&Me Prescription Savings Program just got a whole lot easier for people who have prescription drug coverage through Medicare.

Beginning Jan. 1, AstraZeneca will no longer require that people with Medicare prescription drug coverage spend 3 percent of their annual household income on out-of-pocket costs for prescription medicines within the calendar year to qualify for its prescription savings program.

Those who qualify for the program receive their AstraZeneca medicines for free, delivered to their home or doctor’s office.

“We regularly evaluate how we can simplify our program enrollment process and saw an opportunity to do so for people with Medicare,” said Jennifer McGovern, Director, AZ&Me Prescription Savings Programs. “Removing the out-of-pocket spend requirement means that people will no longer have to gather documentation from their pharmacy before completing their enrollment, saving them time and helping them get their AstraZeneca medicines sooner.”

To be eligible for the program, a person with Medicare must:

  •  Be enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan.
  • Have an annual household income at or below $35,000 for individuals or $48,000 for couples.
  • Not be enrolled in the Medicare Limited Income Subsidy.

To learn more about how the AZ&Me programs work and who is eligible, please visit www.azandme.com or call 1-800-AZandMe (292-6363).

Help when a hurricane strikes

Helping people maintain access to their medicines and receive medical and humanitarian aid are among the most pressing priorities in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

We collaborate with several different organizations year-round to prepare for disasters such as this and encourage those who need assistance getting their medicines or who have other health-related needs to take advantage of the help they can offer.

Access to medicines, medical and humanitarian aid

As noted here, AstraZeneca works with partners such as AmeriCares and Direct Relief International to help get our medicines along with humanitarian aid to patients who have been struck by disaster. Both organizations have disaster relief teams working with local clinics and pharmacies to assess the need and provide aid.

Through our participation in the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), AstraZeneca supports RxResponse. Rx Response provides a number of tools and resources designed to help communicate information and support the bio-pharmaceutical supply chain during a public health emergency. These include a pharmacy status reporting tool that helps state emergency management officials and the general public identify open pharmacies in their local area during a public health emergency.

AZ&Me Prescription Savings Program

The AZ&Me Prescription Savings Program has policies in place to help patients maintain a consistent supply of their AstraZeneca medicine while they are managing through this kind of crisis.

Here, Jennifer McGovern, Director of the AZ&Me Prescription Savings Program, explains what patients and health care providers need to know about receiving medicines through our program in the wake of natural disasters such as Sandy.

Health Affairs examines how we talk about research

Comparative effectiveness research can help inform physician-patient decisions about treatment options

In a special issue released today, Health Affairs examines the “Current Challenges in Comparative Effectiveness Research” and how the findings from this kind of research may – or may not – be promoted and used by pharmaceutical companies, payers, providers and others involved in health care decision-making.

Comparative effectiveness research evidence is generated from research studies that compare drugs, medical devices, tests, surgeries, or ways to deliver health care. It is designed to inform health-care decisions by looking at existing evidence and generating new evidence.

The call for evidence-based medicine is not new, but the topic has generated more attention in recent years with increased funding for comparative effectiveness research through the stimulus act and health care law. One-billion dollars in funding has been given to Federal agencies to scale up their efforts on comparative effectiveness research.

With funding for CER in place, some of the questions now being asked are: how can CER be done appropriately and how can communication of these findings be done in a way that is fair?

AstraZeneca supports research that helps inform physician-patient decisions and healthcare that works. Through our work in real-world evidence, we look beyond the information needed for FDA approval. We look to analyze how medicines and treatments already on the market are working in a number of disease areas and improving quality and managing total cost of care.

Unlike randomized controlled clinical trials used for regulatory filings, most real-world evidence studies use observational, naturalistic, and other types of non randomized clinical trial data such as electronic medical records, claims information and patient surveys. By examining data associated with the delivery of care, real-world analyses can assess treatment impact on health outcomes important to patients.

But, as Health Affairs points out, there are limitations to what the pharmaceutical industry is allowed to say regarding its research while other stakeholders have considerably less regulation over their communications. This asymmetry in communications could ultimately hurt patients because providers and other decision makers do not have all of the available information.

While randomized, controlled clinical trials are the regulatory standard by which safety and efficacy of drugs are demonstrated in the United States, these studies often are designed with numerous controls that may limit the ability to answer questions related to the real-world delivery of healthcare. Studying the use of a drug, device or other treatment in a real-world setting can yield insights into costs, optimum co-therapies, and medical best practices that the focus of clinical trials cannot.

Today’s release of the October issue of Health Affairs is accompanied by a symposium with a variety of health care stakeholders. This issue and forum was supported by the National Pharmaceutical Council.

AstraZeneca supports AmeriCares’ work in Guatemala

The Obras Sociales de Hermano Pedro in Antigua, Guatemala provides charitable care to the country’s neediest residents

With more than 50 percent of its citizens living in poverty, shortages of medicines and medical supplies are commonplace in Guatemala. AmeriCares – a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization – recently invited AstraZeneca and other supporters to join them on a 24-hour tour to witness the profound need that AmeriCares addresses every day.

AmeriCares began working in Guatemala in 1986 and has provided more than $24 million in assistance in the last year alone. The need for this aid is great not only because Guatemala is among the 10 poorest countries in Latin America, but also because half of its children age 5 and younger are malnourished, making children especially vulnerable.

Kate Sparich, Senior Manager, Patient Assistance Programs at AstraZeneca, traveled with AmeriCares to Guatemala. She saw the important work that is being done by AmeriCares and its community health partners during her visits to a public hospital, clinics, a home for disabled children and adults, and a nursing home.

“It was a privilege to be part of the AmeriCares 2012 Airlift visit to Guatemala and to witness firsthand the impact that medical donations can have to patients so desperately in need,” Sparich said.

AstraZeneca is committed to improving the health of patients through great medicines and effective collaboration with partners who share our passion for making a meaningful difference to patient health. Our work with AmeriCares is one way we deliver on that commitment. We are proud to support AmeriCares’ work in the US and countries in need around the world.

To learn more about the AZ&Me Prescription Savings Programs, please visit www.azandme.com.

Real-world evidence answering key healthcare questions

AZ’s Brian Sweet a featured presenter at the AMCP 2012 Educational Conference

How is AstraZeneca using real-world evidence to shed more light on how our medicines are actually being used to help improve patient health? How are we using the insights from our collaboration with HealthCore to inform business decisions from the earliest days of discovery to the end of a product’s lifecycle?

AstraZeneca’s Brian Sweet, Executive Director of Health Alliances, answered these and other frequently asked questions about our work in real-world evidence at the Association of Managed Care Pharmacy’s 2012 Educational Conference this week.

Q: In what ways is AstraZeneca using real-world evidence? 

Brian: Our RWE capability is generating valuable insights that we are using to inform business decisions we make every day in discovery, business development and commercial development of launch to late-stage products.

We begin talking to payers and health technology appraisers early in and throughout medicines development to discuss where the greatest clinical needs are and what type of data will be needed to provide the evidence to support access and reimbursement in specific healthcare settings.

For example, we worked with a national health plan to understand the effect of a formulary decision on the total cost of care for one of our late stage commercial products. The removal of a branded medicine from a preferred tier status resulted in higher overall costs, related to the cost of office and emergency room visits as well as disease state-related tests.

Q: How has RWE informed AZ’s decisions around working with external partners to develop a medicine?

Brian: If we don’t believe we will be able to demonstrate the value and unmet medical need of an investigational medicine to those who will pay for it, we won’t invest in it.

For example, we did an evaluation of in-hospital and multiple health plan data to provide insight as to whether a late stage product had a role in treating infants with a suspected condition in which all clinical trials had failed.

In another situation, we established the incidence, prevalence, and course of health treatment for a specific disease to evaluate a business development opportunity for a medication intended for patients with biopsy-confirmation of this disease.

 Q: Who else is collaborating with AZ and HealthCore on RWE?

Brian: We have agreements in place with Delaware’s state Medicaid program, a large employer group and some provider groups. We are at different stages of conversations with multiple other stakeholders about how we can work together. Most of our agreements are confidential at this point, but we expect to announce some soon.

Engaging with stakeholders about RWE has taught us how important it is that we are clear and transparent about critical issues such as data security and privacy, data integrity and conducting studies that truly add value to each organization.

To learn more about AstraZeneca’s work in RWE, please visit recent blog posts here and here.

AmeriCares aids communities when disaster strikes

Family kits provide basic essentials such as toothbrushes, soap and washcloths to those struck by natural disasters.

When wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes strike, communities must respond to a sudden surge in demand for medical care and medicines. With hurricane season underway, AmeriCares – a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization – has posted a timely article about what goes on behind the scenes to be response-ready when disaster strikes.

Here, Garrett Ingoglia, Director, Emergency Response for AmeriCares, shares details about how his organization works in disaster-struck communities and how they collaborate with companies such as AstraZeneca.

Garrett Ingoglia leads AmeriCares’ emergency preparedness and response efforts

What kind of support does AmeriCares provide for disaster relief and how quickly does AmeriCares deploy those resources?

AmeriCares provides medicine, medical supplies and other emergency items to help people who have been affected by disasters in the United States and around the world. We respond to approximately 25 disasters per year, including hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other natural and human-caused events.

Here in the U.S., AmeriCares can deploy resources very quickly. We often send our first shipment out within 24 hours of a request for assistance, and we can get emergency supplies into the hands of individuals and families within 72 hours of their initial request.

How does AmeriCares assess the needs of people in disaster areas?

In a disaster situation, we assesses emergency needs by reviewing situation reports produced at the local, state, and Federal government levels, and by working with our local partners — clinics, food banks, and departments of health — to understand the magnitude and type of disaster-related need. We also participate in coordinating calls with relevant state and local Voluntary Organizations Operating in Disasters (VOAD) chapters to get a clear understanding of the need as well as how other organizations are responding, so we do not duplicate effort. In addition, we often deploy staff to the affected area to assess needs and gain situational awareness.

How does AmeriCares get medicines into the hands of patients quickly in an emergency?

Great partners and strong logistics are two reasons why we are able to provide such critical assistance to patients so quickly. On the “supply” side, corporations like AstraZeneca provide us with critical medicines and supplies needed to save lives and improve health following a disaster. On the “demand” side, our extensive network of clinics and other response partners assess immediate needs and provide the emergency supplies directly to those who need it most. Our strong logistical capabilities enable us to deliver supplies to our partners—by land, sea or air—quickly and efficiently.

How do industry partnerships such as that with AstraZeneca make a difference to AmeriCares and the people you serve?

We value the industry partnerships we have in place to help ensure that important pharmaceutical products are available in the AmeriCares Emergency Pharmacy in our Stamford warehouse on an ongoing basis. For example, whenever a U.S. emergency arises, AstraZeneca product donations are ready to go within hours and AstraZeneca replenishes the supply inventory on an as needed basis.

AstraZeneca supplies have helped hundreds of people here at home and around the world who have been affected by disasters. In the U.S., AstraZeneca products have been particularly helpful in providing comfort to individuals displaced from their homes by disasters. For example, when tornadoes ripped through eastern Kentucky in March of 2012 and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes, AstraZeneca’s hygiene kits allowed 250 of these displaced families the opportunity to brush their teeth, bathe with soap and clean their clothes. While these are tasks some might take for granted, they can become a challenge in the face of a natural disaster.

In late June and early July of 2012, the Waldo Canyon fire swept through the Colorado Springs area, destroying more than 300 homes and filling the air with thick, black smoke. Medical clinics in the area reported an increase in the number of patients suffering from respiratory problems, particularly those with chronic conditions. AstraZeneca provided nebulizers and respiratory medications to help individuals with respiratory conditions who were impacted by the smoke.

These are just a few examples of how AstraZeneca and AmeriCares have worked together to make a difference for communities, families and individuals affected by disasters. We look forward to continuing our work with AstraZeneca and other pharmaceutical partners in the future.

AstraZeneca answers top questions about prescription savings programs

Jennifer McGovern, Director, AZ&Me Prescription Savings Programs

We get a lot of questions about our prescription savings programs – what is available, who is eligible, how to access them and more.

Here, Jennifer McGovern, Director of the AZ&Me Prescription Savings Programs, answers some of the questions most frequently asked by patients, caregivers and health care advocates.

Why do you do this? AstraZeneca is committed to offering great medicines that make a meaningful difference to patient health. We know that our medicines can only help patients if they can access them. This is why we’ve been offering these programs since 1978.

Where can I learn more about the programs? Information about the AstraZeneca suite of prescription savings programs, as well as the program application, may be found at www.azandme.com.

Can AstraZeneca help me with my AstraZeneca medicines if I have recently lost my job? If you’ve recently lost your job, or had a change in marital status or household size you may be eligible to receive your AstraZeneca medicines through the AZ&Me program. Please call 1-800-AZandMe to find out whether you are eligible.

How long can I be enrolled in the AZ&Me program? Enrollment in the AZ&Me Prescription Savings Program for People without Insurance is 12 months (rolling) from date of enrollment, with the option for re-enrollment provided the patient is still eligible. Enrollment in the AZ&Me Prescription Savings Program for People with Medicare Part D is through December 31 of each year with the option for re-enrollment provided the patient is still eligible.

How soon can I receive my medicine? Medicines are provided to eligible patients usually within 7-10 business days from the time we receive an application, although this time may vary depending on the enrollment process or urgent need.

Is there a way I can see the status of my application or my order? Patients, advocates and providers may see the status of an application or medication order by signing up for the AZ&Me Self-Service website which enables one to see real time status of enrollment, orders and refills. To get more information about this service, or to sign up, please call 1-800-AZandMe.

What if I need more than one AstraZeneca medicine? The AZ&Me Prescription Savings Programs enable eligible patients to access all AstraZeneca medicines available on the programs with just one application. Patients should indicate which AstraZeneca medicines they need on their application and submit all appropriate prescriptions. As long as the medicines are included in the program, eligible patients will receive all requested AstraZeneca medicines.

What if I have prescription drug coverage but the AstraZeneca medicine I need is not covered by my plan? If you meet the financial requirements for the AZ&Me program but have prescription drug coverage that does not cover the needed AstraZeneca medicine, it is possible that you may qualify to receive that particular medicine through the AZ&Me program. You should call 1-800-AZandMe to speak with one of our customer service representatives.

What if I am helping someone with his/her enrollment and on-going program use? Can I see the status of his/her application and orders? If authorized by the patient, advocates may gain access to the AZ&Me Self-Service option to check on the status of a patient’s enrollment or order shipment.

I run a healthcare facility and see a lot of uninsured patients. Is there a way I can get medicines for my patients that is easier than enrolling each patient in the program? One of the programs offered in the suite of AZ&Me Prescription Savings Programs is a program for healthcare facilities, which provides eligible facilities with free AstraZeneca medicines for use with their patients meeting the AZ&Me enrollment criteria. Please see www.azandme.com for more information.

If I have Medicare Part D but am still finding it difficult to afford my medicines, is there a way AstraZeneca can help me? Also included in the AstraZeneca suite of patient assistance programs is the AZ&Me Prescription Savings Program for People with Medicare Part D. This program provides medicines to eligible Part D patients at no cost.

We invite you to learn more about the AZ&Me Prescription Savings Programs by reading recent blog posts here and here or visiting the program website.

High self-esteem is the foundation for a positive future

This is the eighth in a series of posts that take a closer look at the developmental assets that are at the foundation of the AstraZeneca Young Health Program: IM40.  The three most recent posts may be found here, here and here.

Today’s post explores “positive identity” as a category of internal assets or those personal values, competencies and experiences that come from within.

What is a positive identity?

“Who am I” is a hallmark question of adolescence, and solidifying identity is a primary task of adolescents says Minneapolis-based Search Institute. When young people sense their own power, purpose, worth, and promise, they can do just about anything they decide to do.

The “positive identity” assets tie in closely with the “support” assets. Young people who feel loved, supported, and nurtured are more apt to feel good about themselves and have a positive view of their future. Young people who have families, neighbors, friends, teachers and others who see the best in them are more likely to bring out the best in themselves and those around them.

The four positive identity assets

The developmental assets framework includes four positive identity assets that indicate how young people feel about who they are and who they are becoming:

  1. Personal Power – Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
  2. Self-Esteem – Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
  3. Sense of Purpose – Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
  4. Positive View of Personal Future – Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.

 Assets in action: Michelle’s story

Through her work directing the youth auxiliary for Zeta Phi Beta Sorority’s Wilmington chapter, AstraZeneca’s Michelle Mack-Williams is helping young women see their potential and empowering them to pursue their dreams.

Ideas for building positive identity

The following tips are courtesy of Search Institute:

  • Notice a young person’s individual talents or sparks and appreciate them.
  • Never pass up an opportunity to be encouraging.
  • Talk about plans for the future: ask a young person where they see themselves in five years and in ten years.
  • Talk about the things that give your life a sense of purpose. Ask a young person what gives his or her life a sense of purpose.
  • When a young person faces a challenge, help her or him think through and act on solutions.
  • Use positive language to influence young people’s perceptions of themselves.

For more information about the Young Health Program: IM40, visit www.im40.org. To connect with other asset builders on Twitter, use #YHP40 or visit us on Facebook.

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