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Anchor lead: Do big drug stores and health insurers belong together? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Is the recently announced purchase of health insurer Aetna by CVS pharmacies likely to help or hurt consumers? Some pundits argue that access to basic health care and competitive prices on drugs will be improved, while others are concerned that after cornering the market, the consolidated giant will raise prices. Redonda Miller, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, says this is just the latest merger.

Miller: Well I think it’s a very interesting development seeing all this consolidation in the healthcare industry, including some vertical consolidation and vertical integration. One certainly hopes that this translates into better drug pricing for our patients.  :15

Miller says the big factor in drug pricing is pharma.

Miller: I think any conversation without involving the pharmaceutical industry won’t go terribly far. But perhaps this will be some enhanced negotiating power.  :09

Miller says she’s hopeful that economies of scale realized in the merger will result in stabilized prices for consumers. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Paying just a little bit more for a stamp can really help Alzheimer’s research, Elizabeth Tracey reports

An extra 10 cents for a stamp may not seem like much to you, but if many of us buy the new Alzheimer’s stamp where all that extra postage goes to research on the disease, it really adds up. Constantine Lyketsos, an Alzheimer’s expert at Johns Hopkins, looks at the numbers.

Lyketsos: This is the opportunity to accrue really large amounts of money over time by having very large numbers of people contributing small amounts to Alzheimer’s research. Think about it this way- if every American, and we’re about 300 million right now, purchased one stamp, paying the extra 10 cents, that’s about 35 million.  :22

Lyketsos describes what’s at stake.

Lyketsos: By 2050 Alzheimer’s will be costing the United States over $1 trillion dollars a year we just simply don’t have enough money going into research so I would encourage everybody to make their own small contribution and to ask as many of their friends to do the same. :16

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: A new postage stamp to support Alzheimer’s disease research has been released, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Would you pay about 10 cents more for a postage stamp that gives the extra postage collected to support Alzheimer’s disease research? That’s the hope of both the US Postal Service and Alzheimer’s disease researchers with the release of a new stamp known as a semi-postal. Constantine Lyketsos, an Alzheimer’s expert at Johns Hopkins, explains the strategy.

Lyketsos: The Alzheimer’s stamp is important for a couple of reasons. It’s going to raise funds for research. The price of the stamp is somewhat higher than the price of a first class mailing stamp. The difference is going to go directly to support Alzheimer’s disease research at the NIH. We need a lot more funds for Alzheimer’s research, hopefully we will get lots and lots of people out there contributing even by their own small amounts into this effort and therefore learning the importance or the need that we have.  :30

Right now the ‘semi-postal’ will only be available for two years, but Lyketsos and others are hopeful it may be extended. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Can we identify those at risk of heart attacks taking place early in life? Elizabeth Tracey reports

When someone who’s fairly young has a heart attack, everyone is shocked. Now a new study takes a closer look at those who have heart attacks early in life to try to see if they could have been identified as being at risk. Michael Blaha, a preventive cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, describes the findings.

Blaha: What this study showed is that fifty percent or more of these patients would not have been recommended to be on medical therapy the day before their heart attack. Sometimes this means that high risk adults should get something called a coronary artery calcium score of their heart, and other times it means that patients with early risk factors should be treated more aggressively at a young age. If you’re an individual who has a risk factor at an early age, for example early high blood pressure or high cholesterol at a young age, you should see your doctor to talk about your cardiovascular risk.  :29

Blaha notes that coronary calcium scan is quick, inexpensive, and may help identify younger people at risk. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead:   A more tailored approach to managing high blood pressure is recommended, Elizabeth Tracey reports

New management guidelines for high blood pressure have been released, and Michael Blaha, a preventive cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, says the need for antihypertensive, or blood pressure lowering medicines, is clear.

Blaha: The guidelines continue to recommend a diuretic or another similarly safe antihypertensive first, but a new part of these guidelines is to emphasize the need for multiple blood pressure agents in patients with stage two high blood pressure. Systolic over 140 and diastolic over 90. These patients commonly need at least two drugs to get their blood pressure under control.   :22

Patient participation is also crucial.

Blaha: So an important part of the new blood pressure guideline is the emphasis on home blood pressure monitoring. We know that a blood pressure taken in the office may not be representative of the patient’s true blood pressure. :11

So if you’ve been told you have high blood pressure, planning to become involved in your own care is key, Blaha says. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: What can you do if you’ve just been told you have high blood pressure? Elizabeth Tracey reports

130 over 80. That’s the new guideline for defining high blood pressure, or hypertension, and it places many more people squarely into the group who have the condition. Does this mean you need to begin a medication right away? Not necessarily, says Michael Blaha, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins.

Blaha: Importantly the new guidelines don’t suggest that all of these stage 1 hypertensives need to be on medical therapy. You can use diet and exercise and lifestyle therapy first for these patients. The guidelines recommend that those patients with stage one hypertension and elevated cardiovascular risk do start on medications. And really the main part of these guidelines is to raise awareness of the importance of elevated blood pressure and try to get patients earlier before they become extremely hypertensive. And to get those patients in to their doctor earlier to talk about potential medical therapy.  :33

Blaha notes that many people in this stage one category will be able to manage their blood pressure themselves by losing weight, changing their diet, and exercising more. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: What do changes in high blood pressure guidelines mean for you? Elizabeth Tracey reports

If you have a blood pressure reading where the top number, the systolic number, is over 130, or the lower number, the diastolic number, is above 80, you are now officially in the group of people considered to have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Michael Blaha, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, describes the new guidelines.

Blaha: The biggest change in the new blood pressure guidelines is the definition of elevated blood pressure. Whereas in the past you had to have a systolic blood pressure of over 140 or a diastolic blood pressure above 90 to be considered to have elevated blood pressure, now stage one hypertension is considered anyone with two readings separated in time of above 130 systolic and 80 diastolic. This brings millions more American adults into the group who have hypertension.   :30

Blaha reiterates that high blood pressure is a known risk factor for strokes and heart attacks, so catching it early is crucial. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

 

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