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CONSUMERS TURNING MORE TO GENERICS

As drug spending continues to go up, Americans with prescription coverage say they expect to pay more for drugs, the costs of which up to now have been absorbed largely by employers and health plans. The trade publication, Express Scripts Drug Trend Report, conducted a recent consumer opinion survey that found 74 percent of respondents expected to pay more out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs in the next two to three years. Many of those surveyed said they already are controlling out-of-pocket costs by requesting generic drugs instead of brand name products to lower their co-payments. The survey reported 61 percent and 58 percent of respondents indicated they regularly ask their pharmacists and doctors, respectively, to substitute generics instead of brand names to save money.

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CHARTS HELP ASSESS CANCER RISKS

A team from Dartmouth University has created simple risk charts to help people gauge the threat of cancer. People are regularly confronted with cancer risk information presented in ways that highlight the magnitude of the risk but provide little context, the team said. For example, this year, about 183,000 American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and approximately 40,800 of them will die. Yet, for women over 40 who have never smoked, the chance of dying from breast cancer in the next 10 years is 0.2 percent and stays below one percent until the age of 70. The charts are designed to be simple, low-tech tools that can be used anywhere. They put cancer in context by placing the 10-year chance of dying from various causes side by side. The charts include data for a range of ages on a single page, and there are separate charts for male and female smokers and non-smokers.

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FIGHTING BLINDNESS IN DIABETICS

Clinical trials are set to begin in Australia for a drug that could provide a painless and non-destructive way to treat blindness in diabetics. The new drug blocks a crucial chemical pathway that can cause blindness and eye damage in diabetics -- now the leading cause of new blindness in adults around the world. "A vital clue to our breakthrough came unexpectedly when treating diabetics for high blood pressure, another consequence of the disease," University of Melbourne researchers said. They found the chemical system in the body causing high blood pressure in diabetics was the same culprit behind kidney failure. Diabetic patients take drugs to treat kidney damage, but nobody had thought to investigate if the drugs helped combat diabetes-induced blindness. The drugs have successfully helped to improve blood vessel function in the eyes and kidneys, and this success has led to approval of the clinical trial.


HEARING INFANTS PREFER SIGNING

Six-month-old hearing infants exposed to sign language for the first time prefer it to pantomime, lending new evidence that humans show a broad preference for languages over "non-languages," a University of Washington researcher has found. "Infants seem to be set up to pay attention to language at birth and we've seen they have a remarkable sensitivity to spoken language," said Ursula Hildebrandt, a doctoral student in psychology. This finding "suggests that there may be something in all languages, both spoken and signed, that is interesting to infants." Hildebrandt observed the visual preferences of a group of infants. All had normal hearing, were full-term at birth and had no previous exposure to sign language or pantomime. Each infant was held by his or her mother or an experimenter in front of two television monitors. One monitor showed stories told in sign while the other simultaneously displayed pantomime stories. The sequences were matched for length and grouped into trials that lasted about 40 seconds. The babies consistently preferred sign language to pantomime throughout the trials. Now Hildebrandt is repeating the experiment with 9- to 10-month-old infants to see if this early preference for signing disappears in older infants.

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(Editors: For more information on DRUG SPENDING, contact Ryan Soderstrom at 952-837-5160 or ryan.soderstrom@express-scripts.com. For RISK CHARTS, Steve Snyder at 603-650-1492 or steve.snyder@dartmouth.edu. For DIABETES, Jason Major in Australia at +61-3-8344-0181 or jmajor@unimelb.edu.au. For INFANTS, Joel Schwarz at 206-543-2580 or joels@u.washington.edu)

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