Genetic Editing to Make Us Better, Faster, Stronger

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By Dana Talesnik

Recently, genome sequencing and gene-editing techniques have become faster, more accurate and cheaper, thanks to the innovations of investigators such as Dr. George Church, who delivered 2017’s Marshall Nirenberg Lecture at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

“The thing that’s significant here is that we’re not just reading genes and their 64 types of triplet codons, which comprise the genetic code, but we’re also now writing them and can do radical recoding,” said Church, professor of genetics, health sciences and technology at Harvard University and director, Harvard-NHGRI Center of Excellence in Genomic Science.

The ability to alter genes offers the potential to treat heart and organ failure, cancer and many inherited conditions. The reason it’s possible to read whole genomes and write them on the billion base pair scale is due to such gene-editing tools as CRISPR—a tool Church’s lab helped invent that can delete, insert or alter genes—and novel sequencing methods such as fluorescent in situ RNA sequencing.

Another integral part of Church’s research is engineering cells to make them resistant to viruses. “It’s interesting, both practically and philosophically—you can make an organism resistant to all viruses in the world, even viruses you’ve never studied before, because they all expect a genetic code to be provided by the host, and we can change that radically without impacting the host,” he explained.

Church’s lab is part of NIH’s BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, which seeks to analyze brain function with the goal of treating and preventing brain disorders. Astonishingly, Church and colleagues are also busy editing genetic code with the goal of building brains.

“We’re not just interested in making brains,” said Church. “We also want to make sure that when we make these organoids, they are physiologically reasonable and, if they’re not, we want to debug them with all the tools that we have.”

Source: nihrecord.nih.gov

5 Ways for Parents to Become Savvy About Hidden Added Sugars

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Hidden Sugars

FREDERICKSBURG, Virginia – Ask 10 parents how much added sugar their child consumes each day and there’s a good chance that at least 9 of them will have no clue or will underestimate it. In fact, research published in the International Journal of Obesity reported that 92 percent of the parents surveyed in the study underestimated the added sugar content in foods and beverages.

The study also showed that kids are more likely to be overweight when their parents are misinformed about sugar in their kids’ diet. Since sugar intake is associated with an increased risk of being overweight and parents are a child’s nutritional gatekeeper, it essential that they know the ins and outs of sugar.

“Added sugars have infiltrated our lives in a pervasive way, making it crucial that parents know how to identify it and how much is too much,” says Dr. Nimali Fernando, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project. “Without solid information regarding sugar intake, we may be setting our children up for possible health problems later.”

According to the American Heart Association, children should consume less than 25 grams of added sugar per day, which is equivalent to 6 teaspoons, and that children under the age of 2 should not have any sugar-added foods or beverages. They report that eating foods high in added sugar throughout childhood is linked to a higher risk of developing such diseases in adulthood as heart disease. It’s also linked to obesity and elevated blood pressure in both children and adults.

Childhood obesity has become a hot-button issue in recent years, as the number of children considered overweight and obese continues to rise, particularly among children age 2-5. According to a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine, 57 percent of today’s children are predicted to be obese by age 35.

Parents are often confused when it comes to sugar intake with their children. Sugar that comes in the form of whole fruit is generally good, while added sugar is what parents need to really watch. Added sugars are those sugars that have been used by the food industry to enhance a food’s flavor. While a piece of fruit is a good choice, “fruit snacks” (the kind that come look like soft candy, for example) may not be, because of the added sugars. Even some foods that seem healthy may contain “hidden” added sugars, making it important for parents to get to know the terms and become label readers.

Here are 5 ways for parents to become savvy about the sneaky ways food companies add sugar to foods:

  1. Confusing food labels. Figuring out how many added teaspoons are in a recipe is not straightforward. First, food labels report sugar in grams. So remember this equation the next time you look at a label: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. To further complicate things, food labels historically did not break down added sugar with naturally occurring sugar. So when we look at a label on a sweetened fruit yogurt, it’s often unclear how much of the sugar comes from natural milk sugars and fruit versus how much extra sugar the food company has added. Luckily, by the end of 2018 most food labels will be updated to break down total vs added sugar which will make reading a label more straightforward.
  2. Small portion sizes. A favorite food may not look like it has much sugar per serving, but if you look closely you may notice that the serving size is much smaller than what you may actually eat. Take the example of cereal. A typical serving size for cereal may be a half a cup or less than a cup per serving, which is much smaller than most people will actually eat (especially if it’s really sweet, because you are likely to eat more). If there are two teaspoons of sugar in a serving, but you can eat three servings, that 2 teaspoons quickly multiplies to 6 teaspoons, the recommended daily limit for a child.
  3. Sweetening with “healthier” sugars. Sweeteners like honey, agave and maple syrup may make a food appear healthier, but that doesn’t mean they actually are. While they may be more natural than refined sugar, manufacturers are still adding sugar to a food that may not need extra sweetness. Don’t be fooled by healthier sounding added sweetener ingredients.
  4. Using sneaky names for sugar.Sometime it can be hard to spot sugar in an ingredient list because there are so many code names. One nutrition source reports that sugar can be spotted with as many as 61 different names. Sugar’s many code names include: rice syrup, dextrose, maltose and barley malt, and high-fructose corn syrup. This is a great tactic, as companies are required to list foods by weight in decreasing order. By listing sugar with more than one name, companies may be able to bury sugar further down on the list, making it seem like there is less.
  5. Know the sneakiest foods.There are some foods that seem to have hidden sugars in them more often than others. Be aware of and read the labels carefully on such foods as granola bars, breakfast cereals, yogurt, fruit snacks, and juice. Juice is trickier because technically the sugar in juice is considered naturally occurring. However, it’s more like a processed food. There is nothing natural about a child drinking the equivalent of 5 apples worth of sugar. And when we drink apple juice, there is no fiber to help slow down the absorption the way there is when we eat an apple. Skip the juice and stick with water for hydration and whole fruit for fiber and nutrients instead.

“Childhood is where many of our food habits are formed, making it that much more important that we help our children learn to sensibly navigate the nutritional landscape,” added Heidi DiEugenio, director of the Doctor Yum Project. “The more we can help them learn better and healthier food habits now, the more they will benefit from those choices and habits into the future.”

Dr. Fernando created The Doctor Yum Project, an organization with the mission of transforming the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life. The project offers healthy cooking classes, child nutrition classes, cooking camps for kids, hands-on cooking instruction for families, first foods classes, a teaching garden, and online tools to help families make healthier meals. They also offer a preschool nutrition program, with 40 classrooms and almost 600 participating preschoolers.

Dr. Fernando, otherwise known as Dr. Yum, is a board-certified pediatrician. She is also the co-author of the book “Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook” (The Experiment, October 2015). To learn more, visit the site at: doctoryum.org.

About The Doctor Yum Project
Founded by Dr. Nimali Fernando, The Doctor Yum Project is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to transforming the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life. They offer a variety of community programs to help with those efforts. They are located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and feature an instructional kitchen and teaching garden for holding classes. To learn more, visit the site at: doctoryum.org.

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Sources:
American Heart Association. Children should eat less than 25 grams of added sugar daily. newsroom.heart.org/news

International Journal of Obesity. Parents’ considerable underestimation of sugar and their child’s risk of overweight. nature.com

Improving Your Appearance and Loving your smile just got easier

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WhitenFresh

New product helps people love their teeth and lose the bad breath

When it comes to loving what we see in the mirror, our teeth and smile have a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports that 86 percent of those getting cosmetic dentistry do so to improve their physical appearance.

One of the most popular services that people seek cosmetic dentistry for is teeth whitening. Now people can save money, whiten their teeth, and love the smile they see in the mirror once again with a new, patent pending product that has hit the market called WhitenFresh.

“We have created the product that just about everyone can benefit from,” explains Dr. Michael Florman, a Los Angeles-based orthodontist and the chief executive officer of EverSmile,  Inc. “Not only is it more affordable than making a cosmetic dentistry appointment, but it’s also simple to use, tastes great and helps with oral hygiene on the go.”

The product is so revolutionary in the industry that it’s sure to put smiles on faces from coast to coast. WhitenFresh is a product that comes in a small airless spray bottle that can be carried in your purse or pocket. It has been specially designed to whiten teeth, get rid of bad breath and kill germs at the same time. Plus, it’s something that has been formulated so it won’t cause sensitivity. People can use it up to six times per day.

WhitenFresh has numerous benefits, including:

  • High bacteria-killing power. According to the National Institutes of Health, bad breath is often caused by bacteria that builds up in the mouth. WhitenFresh gives people a way to quickly get rid of the bacteria that may lead to bad breath.
  • Providing a great whitening tool for sensitive teeth. Those with sensitive teeth may find it difficult to use other tooth whitening products, because they often make the condition worse. WhitenFresh does not cause sensitivity because it uses a low dose of hydrogen peroxide to whiten gradually.
  • Keeping the mouth fresh between brushing and flossing. Since it’s easy to carry in a purse or pocket, people can freshen up on the go, even when they are not near their toothbrush. It can be used before or after meals, drinking coffee, after wine, before heading into a meeting, or anytime a fresh mouth is needed.
  • Having a great flavor. Nobody likes to try to whiten their teeth with products that are messy or don’t taste good. WhitenFresh has a great mint flavor and there is no messiness.
  • Offering versatility. Just spray and go. WhitenFresh can be used by just about everyone, and they can all benefit. It’s effective at helping to diminish wine and smoking stains.
  • Being simple to use. You just spray one pump into the mouth on the teeth and tongue, swish it around for up to 20 seconds, and then spit out the excess or swallow it. The formula is so gentle that it can be swallowed if spitting is not convenient.

“No matter where you are or who you are with, you want great breath, clean teeth, and a nice white smile. It gives us confidence and makes us feel good,” added Dr. Florman. “WhitenFresh has been designed to help people love their smile and feel confident with their look.”

EverSmile has created a line of products that will help those with braces, aligners, and retainers keep their devices clean. At the same time, they will be WhitenFreshable to clean their aligners, whiten their teeth, and freshen their breath. The products are now available in 4,600 CVS stores around the nation. The line of products includes EverSmile WhiteFoam, which gently cleans aligners or trays, EverSmile OrthoFoam, which cleans under and over braces, and EverSmile WhitenFresh, which is a freshening and tooth whitening spray that kills bacteria that cause bad breath and tooth decay on the go.

EverSmile products use patent pending EverClean™ technology, which cleans and whitens using proprietary surfactants, solvents, and hydrogen peroxide. It breaks up organic stain particles that discolor the teeth and dental appliances.

Dr. Florman, who practices in Los Angeles, is considered to be one of the top Invisalign providers in the country and has over 25 years of consulting experience for oral care companies including for Colgate, Arm & Hammer, and others. Dr. Florman has invented multiple dental products and has brought several products from inception to commercial success. For more information about the company and products, visit their site at: eversmilewhite.com.

About EverSmile

Located in Los Angeles, EverSmile’s mission is to create new and advanced oral care products that will change patients’ lives. Currently in development are our new sensitivity-free whitening agents, dry mouth formulations, low-abrasion toothpastes, and a complete children’s dental line. For more information about the company and products, visit their site at: eversmilewhite.com.

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Source:

American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. AACD survey results. aacd.com

National Institutes of Health. Halitosis. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

How Today’s Google Doodle, Dr. Virginia Apgar, Made A Big Difference

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Today is the birthday of Dr. Virginia Apgar, who has helped make many, many, many birthdays possible.  The pioneering doctor lived from June 7, 1909, to August 7, 1974, and is the subject of today’s Google Doodle. You can’t really go through medical school without knowing Apgar’s name, at least her last name. Here’s why.

In 1952, Dr. Apgar unveiled the Apgar score. Besides being her last name, Apgar stands for the following five domains “Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration” of the score. Basically 1 minute and 5 minutes after a baby is born, doctors, nurses, and midwives will score the baby from 0 to 2 (with 2 being the best) for each of these domains. The following table from the KidsHealth website shows how this scoring is done:

You then sum the 5 domain scores to get a sense of the baby’s overall health. If you do the math, you will see that the total score can range from a 0 to a 10 with a higher score being better. A baby rarely scores a 10, because most babies have at least blue hands and feet when they are born (hey, life ain’t easy and not everyone is the best at everything). A score of 7 or higher is normal. Lower than 7 merits immediate medical attention such as potentially oxygen, clearing out the airway, or physical stimulation to get the heart beating faster as the U.S. National Library of Medicine describes. Time may be all that the baby needs, since low scores at 1 minute frequently become normal at 5 minutes. Sometimes a doctor, nurse, or midwife may check an Apgar score 10 minutes after birth if any questions remain.

Of course, an Apgar score is only an immediate assessment and usually does not forecast either good or bad health in the future. So putting your good Apgar score on your resume will impress no one. A high Apgar score doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will be beer and Skittles from thereon. Similarly babies with low initial Apgar scores can go on to have very healthy lives.

While it may seem routine now, using a standardized way to check a baby’s health was not standard practice before Dr. Apgar invented the score. Newborn care was a lot more haphazard, making survival among infants, especially those born prematurely, more challenging.

It was an accomplishment for Dr. Apgar even to get to a position to make such an important invention. Back when she graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1929 and then from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1933, the “Apgar” score for the medical careers of women and minorities was very, very low. Very few were even allowed into medical school, let alone progress in their careers afterwards. But Dr. Apgar was a persistent pioneer, eventually becoming the first woman to achieve the rank of full professor at her medical alma mater in 1949. Things aren’t smooth sailing for women and minorities today in medical and academic careers. But you can thank Dr. Apgar for at least making some initial inroads.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

This kit for making medical tests can be put together like Legos

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Ampli’s reusable blocks let scientists quickly and cheaply create diagnostic tests–and they could be especially helpful in the developing world.

Right now, if a technician working in a lab in rural Angola needs to run a test to see if a patient is infected with Zika or Ebola, they’ll likely use a paper test imported from somewhere else–and if that test doesn’t work for the local population, or if it’s too expensive to buy, there may be no other option. But a new Lego-like kit is designed to make it possible for technicians anywhere to make, and tweak, diagnostics themselves.

The tiny kit called Ampli, uses modular blocks that can be connected in different patterns to replicate the function that would typically be built into a manufactured test for pregnancy, glucose, or an infection or other disease. Pregnancy tests made by a medical device company, for example, use an antibody added to a paper strip that reacts to a hormone that women produce when pregnant, and that reaction causes the paper to change color. The new blocks can create the same test without the complexity of embedding elements in paper ahead of time. It can also perform tests that are typically done with test tubes in a lab, such as a test that carefully mixes three chemicals to see if someone has taken medicine for TB. With the kit, no lab is needed, and the test costs $1.

One type of block is designed to collect a sample of blood or urine from a patient. Another type has a tiny channel for samples to flow through; a third type has turns that make multiple reactions possible. After arranging the blocks, someone working in a lab can sandwich a tiny sheet of paper in the kit, run the test with their sample and chemicals they have in the lab (the paper will turn different colors depending on the result), and then sterilize the blocks to reuse them again.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

From Farmer to Fortune, How One Medical Device Revolutionized An Industry

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iwalk-free

Each year, many entrepreneurs bring their products to market. Yet, research shows that the majority of them will not make it. Among those new products each year, there will be rare items that not only make it, but that completely revolutionize an industry. That’s exactly what happened with the iWALK2.0, a medical device that is essentially giving crutches and scooters a run for their money and longevity. In fact, the company has seen such success from the sales of the device that they expect to hit their 100,000th unit sold this year.

“Crutches have been around for 5,000 years, but the iWALK2.0 has already earned its place in the industry as the device of choice for those who have a lower leg injury,” explains Brad Hunter, the innovator of iWALK2.0 and the chief executive officer of the company, iWALKFree, Inc. “Not only have we won multiple awards for the device, but the feedback we’ve gotten and the sales statistics we’re experiencing all point to a robust future for the iWALK2.0.”

The story of the iWALK2.0 begins with a farmer who created the original version to give himself an easier way to be more mobile while recovering from a lower leg injury. Little did he know he was sitting on a billion dollar idea. It was when Hunter came along and saw the potential in the product that the idea was brought to fruition for the mass market. Hunter purchased half of the company, took the device concept to a whole new level, and introduced it to the world.

During Hunter’s first year, the company had a million dollars in sales, confirming what Hunter had suspected, which was that this was going to be a successful product launch. A serial entrepreneur, he was no stranger to the hard work and dedication that it took to help products find their place in the market. While the device continued to do well, it really saw a huge increase in interest and popularity when Harrison Ford was seen using it. Ford then used it again, for a different injury, which further boosted awareness. Since that time, additional celebrities and athletes have used it, including surfer Kelly Slater and hockey player Nick Bonino, among others.

Hunter knows that there is more that goes into a successful company than just having a great product. His secrets to entrepreneurial success include:

  • Have a clear vision before you start anything, and stick with it – no matter what.
  • Do your homework and lay a strong foundation before you make your first commitment.
  • If others say you can’t do it, prove them wrong.
  • Don’t give it 100%. Give it 150%… or more.
  • Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
  • Mediocrity is the enemy of excellence.
  • Build a strong team.
  • Watch your finances – daily.  Always know exactly where you are.
  • Be proficient at changing hats minute by minute.  Advanced multi-tasking capabilities are essential.
  • Know when to quit. Here’s a hint – never.

“Creating a truly great product is really hard. Building a truly great company is even harder,” adds Hunter. “But if you are dedicated to your vision, work hard, and believe in what you are doing you will increase your chances of success. Believing in yourself is a large part of the equation. I’m thrilled with where the iWALK2.0 is and in its future.”

Sales have soared, the company has won awards for the design and concept of the device, and it is literally revolutionizing the industry. Increasingly, people are opting for the iWALK2.0, which resembles a high-tech pirate’s peg leg, and makes it easier for them to be mobile while they are recovering from a lower leg injury. The iWALK2.0 attaches just below the knee, attaching to and recruits the user’s leg, giving people the ability to stand and walk as they normally do, thus replacing the need for crutches or a scooter. With this route, they are hands-free, which allows them to do things they are used to doing, such as walking their dog, drinking their coffee, using their cellphone, or carrying groceries. In 2017, sales were up 50% over the prior year, and on Amazon the sales were up 154% over the prior year.

The iWALK2.0 is hands-free, easy to learn to use, it’s intuitive, and safe. From the knee up, the leg is doing the same walking motion that comes naturally to it. The device is essentially a temporary lower leg, which gives people their independence and mobility back as they recover from an injury. The device is pain-free, and makes it possible for people to engage in many of their normal routine activities, such as walking the dog, grocery shopping, and walking up or down stairs.

Clinical research, the results of which are on the company website, shows that patients using the iWALK2.0 heal faster, and have a higher sense of satisfaction and a higher rate of compliance. The iWALK2.0 sells for $149 and is available online and through select retailers. Some insurance companies may cover the cost of the device. The device can be used with a cast or boot, and comes with a limited warranty. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at iwalk-free.com. To see a video of the iWALK2.0 in action, visit iWALK2.0 video on You Tube.

About iWALKFree

The iWALK2.0 is a hands-free knee crutch, made by iWALKFree, Inc.  It’s a mobility device used instead of traditional crutches and knee scooters. It offers more comfort and independence, with the hands and arms remaining free. The device offers people a functional and independent lifestyle as they are recovering from many common lower leg injuries. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at iwalk-free.com

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This New Prosthetic Limb Transmits Sensations Directly To The Nervous System

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Even with the most advanced prosthetics, amputees cannot feel the ground when they walk on a synthetic leg, or know if someone is touching a mechanical arm. This new MIT tech hopes to change that.

In 1992, Hugh Herr, now head of the Biomechatronics Group at MIT Media Lab, had both of his legs amputated below the knees after sustaining frostbite during a mountain climbing accident. “I”m basically a bunch of nuts and bolts from the knees down,” Herr says, demonstrating his prosthetic legs on the stage at TED 2018 in Vancouver, “but I can skip, dance, and run.”

Herr’s team at MIT focuses on building prosthetic limbs that respond to neural commands with the flexibility and speed of regular limbs. Around 24 sensors and six microprocessors pick up neural signals from Herr’s central nervous system when he thinks about moving his legs. They transmit those signals to the prosthetics, which move accordingly. But despite this remarkable connectivity between man and machine, it’s not a complete fusion. “When I touch my synthetic limbs, I don’t experience normal touch and movement sensations,” Herr says. In order to know his neural commands worked, he has to look and actually see his foot hit the ground–he can’t feel it.

Reproducing the sensations of having a real limb in prosthetics is, Herr believes, the last remaining hurdle to creating truly effective synthetic limbs. “If I were a cyborg and could feel my legs, they’d become a part of myself,” Herr says. But for now, they still feel separate.

His team, however, is working on a new type of limb that would receive not only commands, but sensations, from the central nervous system. This principle, which Herr calls neuro-embodied design, involves extending the human nervous system into synthetic body parts.

Since the Civil War, when limbs are amputated, doctors have generally truncated the tendons and nerve endings, which minimizes sensation and often leads to the “phantom limb” feeling experienced by many amputees. But in a new process Herr’s team pioneered at MIT, doctors leave the tendons and nerve endings intact so they can continue to feed sensations down past where the human leg ends and the prosthetic begins.

Last year, a fellow mountain climber and old friend of Herr’s, Jim Ewing, became the first patient to undergo the new amputation process and get fitted with a cyborg-like synthetic limb.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

CVS Health Fights Back on High Cost Drugs by Launching Industry’s Most Comprehensive Approach to Saving Patients Money

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New CVS Health initiative seeks to solve one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of consumer financial worry.

Recognizing the threat of rising drug prices and high out-of-pocket costs, CVS Health providing most advanced solutions for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

CVS Pharmacists are key resource for patients in identifying opportunities to maximize their prescription benefits and save money at the pharmacy counter in communities nationwide.

CVS Caremark mitigating impact of high drug costs by providing members and prescribers with robust information and innovative tools to choose lower-cost prescription drugs.

The high cost of prescription drugs is one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of financial worry for consumers across the nation. While CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) has made significant progress in mitigating the impact of high list prices set by pharmaceutical manufacturers, for too many Americans annual out-of-pocket drug costs are still significant. In response, CVS Health announced today that it is fighting back by launching the most comprehensive program in the industry to help patients save money on their medications.

According to a recent national poll, commissioned by CVS Health, 83 percent of Americans said they were concerned personally about the impact of rising prescription drug prices.[1] As prescription drug prices continue to rise and enrollment in high deductible health plans grows, many patients are shouldering higher costs for their prescription medicine.

CVS Health will address this problem with a robust set of initiatives, including the new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder, which will enable the company’s retail pharmacists for the first time to evaluate quickly and seamlessly individual prescription savings opportunities right at the pharmacy counter. This new tool further enhances existing savings opportunities the company’s pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) CVS Caremark is currently offering its clients such as the preventive drug lists that make medications for many common, chronic conditions available at a $0 copay. In addition, CVS Caremark provides real-time, member-specific drug costs and lower-cost alternatives to prescribers through their electronic health record system and to CVS Caremark members through the member portal and newly updated app. These programs are part of CVS Health’s commitment to helping consumers find the lowest cost prescription drugs by offering more pricing transparency for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

“Today’s consumers are faced with higher prescription drug prices than ever before and many of them are now paying for a larger share of their prescription drug costs out of their own pockets at the pharmacy counter due to growth in high deductible health plans,” said Thomas Moriarty, Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer, CVS Health. “Until now, patients haven’t had the appropriate tools available to them to help them manage these costs. To address this, CVS Health is giving expanded tools to patients, prescribers and pharmacists so they can evaluate prescription drug coverage in real-time and identify lower-cost alternatives. We are committed to finding the right drug at the lowest possible cost for patients to ensure they are able to access and stay on the medications they need. That’s our promise.”

Pharmacist working at the drugstore

At the Pharmacy Counter

The new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder enables the retail pharmacist to quickly and seamlessly review a patient’s prescription regimen, medication history and insurance plan information to determine the best way for them to save money on out-of-pocket costs – with the primary goal of helping the patient find the lowest cost alternative under their pharmacy benefits plan.

“Our direct experience is that patients who are confronted with high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter are less likely to pick up their prescriptions and are less likely to be adherent to their prescribed therapy,” said Kevin Hourican, Executive Vice President, Retail Pharmacy, CVS Pharmacy.

“Armed with the information available through our Rx Savings Finder, our more than 30,000 CVS pharmacists can play an important role by helping patients save money on their medications, providing advice on how and when to take them, and ultimately helping them achieve better health outcomes,” Hourican added. “We are beginning this process with our CVS Caremark PBM members and expect to roll it out more broadly throughout the year.”

The Rx Savings Finder will show pharmacy teams:

  1. First, if the prescribed medication is on the patient’s formulary and is the lowest cost option available.
  2. Second, if there are lower-cost options covered under the patient’s pharmacy benefit – such as a generic medication or therapeutic alternative with equivalent efficacy of treatment.
  3. Third, if the patient may be able to save money by filling a 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day prescription.
  4. Finally, if neither a generic nor a lower-cost alternative is available, other potential savings options for eligible or uninsured patients where allowed by applicable laws and regulation.[2]

Pharmacists can also help patients enroll in the ExtraCare Loyalty Program and sign them up for Pharmacy and Health Rewards. Through Pharmacy and Health Rewards, patients receive $5 in ExtraBucks for every 10 prescriptions filled, earning up to $50 in ExtraBucks annually.

At the Doctor’s Office

Another component of the company’s comprehensive savings approach is the recently launched real-time benefits program, which helps bring greater drug price transparency to prescribers and CVS Caremark members. At the point-of-prescribing, providers are able to see the member-specific cost for a selected drug, based on a member’s coverage, along with up to five lowest-cost, clinically appropriate therapeutic alternatives based on the patient’s formulary. PBM members have access to the same information on the CVS Caremark app and member portal. Early results show that prescribers accessing the real-time benefits information through their electronic health record switched their patient’s drug from a non-covered drug to a drug on formulary 85 percent of the time. In addition, when the patient’s drug is covered, prescribers using real-time benefits switch their patient to a lower-cost alternative 30 percent of the time. When the prescriber switched to a lower-cost drug, the difference was approximately $75 per prescription.
“We have been working hard to keep prescription medications affordable for patients,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health. “In fact, in 2017, nearly 90 percent of our PBM plan members spent less than $300 out-of-pocket for their prescription medicines. While this signals progress, for those patients that cost is not insignificant. That is why we are committed to doing even more across our enterprise to help patients find and access the lowest cost drug at the pharmacy which ultimately will help improve clinical outcomes and remove higher downstream medical costs from the system.”

Using Pharmacy Benefit Management Solutions

CVS Health is also making a variety of PBM solutions available to help further drive down drug trend for its PBM clients and drug costs for the patients they support. The company’s Point of Sale (POS) rebate offering allows the value of negotiated rebates on branded drugs to be passed on directly to patients when they fill their prescriptions – and the savings from this program can be significant. In 2013, CVS Health led the industry with the introduction of POS rebates to clients, and today nearly 10 million members are covered by and able to benefit from the program.

In 2017, despite manufacturer brand list price increases on drugs near 10 percent, CVS Health PBM strategies reduced drug trend for CVS Caremark commercial clients to the lowest level in five years, keeping drug price growth at a minimal 0.2 percent. In fact, 42 percent of CVS Caremark commercial clients spent less on their pharmacy benefit plan in 2017 than they had in 2016. CVS Caremark helped members reduce monthly out-of-pocket costs and improve adherence to its highest level in seven years in key categories such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.

Prescription drug trend is the measure of growth in prescription spending per member per month. Trend calculations take into account the effects of drug price, drug utilization and the mix of branded versus generic drugs as well as the positive effect of negotiated rebates on overall trend. The 2017 trend performance is based on a cohort of CVS Health PBM commercial clients, employers and health plans.

About CVS Health

CVS Health is a pharmacy innovation company helping people on their path to better health. Through its more than 9,800 retail locations, more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics, a leading pharmacy benefits manager with more than 94 million plan members, a dedicated senior pharmacy care business serving more than one million patients per year, expanding specialty pharmacy services, and a leading stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, the company enables people, businesses and communities to manage health in more affordable and effective ways. This unique integrated model increases access to quality care, delivers better health outcomes and lowers overall health care costs. Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health at https://www.cvshealth.com.

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[1] The Morning Consult poll was conducted from February 22-26, 2018, among a national sample of 1992 registered voters. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

[2] Prescriptions submitted for reimbursement to Medicare, Medicaid or other federal or state programs are not eligible.

Ford Pilots New Exoskeleton Technology to Help Lessen Chance of Worker Fatigue, Injury

LinkedIn
ford auto worker

Putting dishes on a high shelf or changing an overhead lightbulb occasionally might not be difficult, but could you imagine performing either of these tasks 4,600 times per day? How about 1 million times a year?

These are the approximate number of times some Ford assembly line workers lift their arms during overhead work tasks. At this rate, the possibility of fatigue or injury on the body increases significantly. But a new upper body exoskeletal tool – the result of a partnership between Ford and California-based Ekso Bionics – helps lessen the chance of injury.

“My job entails working over my head, so when I get home my back, neck and shoulders usually hurt,” said Paul Collins, an assembly line worker at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. “Since I started using the vest, I’m not as sore, and I have more energy to play with my grandsons when I get home.”

Called EksoVest, the wearable technology elevates and supports a worker’s arms while performing overhead tasks. It can be fitted to support workers ranging from 5 feet tall to 6 feet 4 inches tall, and provides adjustable lift assistance of five pounds to 15 pounds per arm. It’s comfortable to wear because it’s lightweight, it isn’t bulky, and it allows workers to move their arms freely.

Designed and built for dynamic, real-world environments like factories, construction sites and distribution centers, the non-powered vest offers protection and support against fatigue and injury by reducing the stress and strain of high-frequency, long-duration activities that can take a toll on the body over time.

“Collaboratively working with Ford enabled us to test and refine early prototypes of the EksoVest based on insights directly from their production line workers,” said Russ Angold, co-founder and chief technology officer of Ekso Bionics. “The end result is a wearable tool that reduces the strain on a worker’s body, reducing the likelihood of injury, and helping them feel better at the end of the day – increasing both productivity and morale.”

With support from the United Automobile Workers and Ford, EksoVest is being piloted in two U.S. plants, with plans to test in other regions, including Europe and South America.

“The health and safety of our membership has always been our highest priority,” said UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles. “With the proven success at the piloted locations, we look forward to expanding this technology to our other UAW-Ford manufacturing facilities.”

EksoVest is the latest example of advanced technology Ford is using to reduce the physical toll on employees during the vehicle assembly process. Between 2005 and 2016, the most recent full year of data, the company saw an 83 percent decrease in the number of incidents that resulted in days away, work restrictions or job transfers – to an all-time low of 1.55 incidents per 100 full-time North American employees.

“Our goal has always been to keep the work environment safe and productive for the hardworking men and women we rely on across the globe,” said Bruce Hettle, Ford group vice president, Manufacturing and Labor Affairs. “Investing in the latest ergonomics research, assembly improvements and lift-assist technologies has helped us design efficient and safe assembly lines, while maintaining high vehicle quality for our customers.”

Continue onto Ford’s Newsroom to read the complete article.

Working, Beating Hearts Will Soon Be 3D-Printed From Patients’ Own Cells

LinkedIn

Heart cells grown in a lab and assembled in the shape of the organ will eventually start beating in unison–and create a heart for a patient that has a higher chance of success in a transplant than one from another human.

Inside a lab that will open in a couple of months in Chicago, a biotech startup will soon begin perfecting the process of 3D-printing human hearts that could eventually be used in transplants.

“What this is set up to do is to make a patient-specific, fully functioning heart that’s viable for transplant, using the patient’s own cells,” says Stephen Morris, founding partner and CEO of the startup, Biolife4D.

The process combines several steps that have been developed by various researchers in university labs. First, a patient’s heart will be scanned using an MRI machine to create a digital image of the heart’s shape and size. Next, doctors will take a blood sample. Using techniques that have been developed over the last decade, the blood cells will be converted into stem cells–and then converted a second time into heart cells. Those new heart cells will be combined with nutrients in a hydrogel to make a “bio-ink” that can be used in a specialized 3D printer.

Printing one layer at a time, with a biodegradable scaffolding to keep everything in place, the cells can be formed into the exact shape of the patient’s original heart. The new heart will be moved to a bioreactor to strengthen it. Amazingly, new heart cells outside a body will begin to self-assemble.

“When we’re done ‘bioprinting,’ we have something that looks like a heart, but it’s just individual cells in proper places,” says Morris. “Within a couple of days, the cells just know . . . ‘I’m a heart cell, you’re a heart cell, we’re supposed to join together and start beating.’ And they do that.”

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

A 14-Year-Old Made An App To Help Alzheimer’s Patients Recognize Their Loved Ones

LinkedIn

After watching her grandmother struggle to remember her own family members, the young coder Emma Yang decided to figure out how to use AI and facial recognition to help her–and others coping with the illness.

When Emma Yang was 7 or 8 years old, her grandmother became increasingly forgetful. Over the next few years, those memory problems, caused by early Alzheimer’s disease, worsened. Yang, who learned to code at an early age, decided to create an app to help.

“I have personal experience with how the disease can affect not only the patient, but also family and friends. When I was about 11 or 12, I got really interested in using technology for social good to help other people around the world,” says Yang, who is now 14.

In her app under development, called Timeless, Alzheimer’s patients can scroll through photos of friends and family, and the app will tell them who the person is and how they’re related to the patient using facial recognition tech. If a patient doesn’t recognize someone in the same room, they can take a picture and the tech will also try to automatically identify them.

“I saw a lot of things about how AI and facial recognition were really evolving and being applied in more and more areas, especially healthcare,” she says. She partnered with mentors at the tech company Kairos, which makes the facial recognition software that is now used by the app, and learned to code for the iPhone for the first time.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.