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Genetic Testing, Fact or Fiction: You Be the Judge

Which of these two events is fact and which is fiction?

  • Organizations representing employers and health plans call for a moratorium on implementation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, asserting that the new rules could have a “significant and adverse impact…on wellness and prevention efforts” in the workplace.

  • One of the largest companies in America begins matchmaking its employees based on their genetic compatability, hoping to save on the health insurance bills associated with imperfectly bred children.

Answer: No. 1 is a Dec. 2 press release from the Disease Management Association of America. No. 2 is a description of the Dec. 8 episode of the ABC-TV comedy, “Better Off Ted.”

Coincidence? You be the judge.

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11 replies »

  1. CVS to Offer Genetic Tests to Help Sales,
    Lofberg Says Share Business
    By Carol Wolf
    Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) — CVS Caremark Corp.’s Per Lofberg, the newly named president of the pharmacy-benefits management unit, said the company will offer genetic testing to help sales and profit by matching customers to the best drugs for them.
    “This is the next frontier of how pharmacy will be practiced and how pharmaceuticals will be brought to market,” Lofberg said in a telephone interview.
    CVS, the largest U.S. provider of prescription drugs, named Lofberg, 62, president of its pharmacy-benefits management, or PBM, business today after it lost $4.8 billion in 2010 contracts this year. He will start in his new role Jan. 4, Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS said today in a statement.
    Scientists are studying how people’s genetic make-up influences the effectiveness of certain medications, he said. By running tests, it’s possible to determine which treatments will provide the best results for each individual. That can reduce costs throughout the health-care industry, he said.
    CVS will introduce genetic testing in the second quarter through Generation Health Inc., a partner in which it said today it is taking an “increased ownership interest.” Lofberg is chief executive officer of Generation Health, which has contracts with laboratories across the U.S., he said.
    “Right now, there are about 30 or 40 important drugs where there are known relationships to people’s genetic patterns,” he said. “That number will go up quite a bit, so pretty much every pharmaceutical that’s being evaluated for approval and eventual marketing has some sort of genetic information being collected as part of the clinical development process.”
    Correcting the Focus
    Lofberg was previously chairman of Merck-Medco Managed Care LLC, which became Medco Health Solutions Inc., a CVS competitor.
    CVS Chief Executive Officer Tom Ryan took over the PBM unit last month after disclosing its contract losses. Ryan replaced Howard McLure, 52, who retired, CVS said Nov. 5.
    “Lofberg should be able to get the PBM business back on track,” said Adam Fein, president of Philadelphia-based Pembroke Consulting Inc., a health-care consulting firm. “Caremark needed someone with a lot of experience to ignite the innovative engine.”
    The new unit president has more than 30 years of experience in health care and the PBM industry, according to CVS.
    CVS rose $1.12, or 3.6 percent, to $32.30 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have risen 12 percent this year.

  2. CVS to Offer Genetic Tests to Help Sales,
    By Carol Wolf
    Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) — CVS Caremark Corp.’s Per Lofberg, the newly named president of the pharmacy-benefits management unit, said the company will offer genetic testing to help sales and profit by matching customers to the best drugs for them.
    “This is the next frontier of how pharmacy will be practiced and how pharmaceuticals will be brought to market,” Lofberg said in a telephone interview.
    CVS, the largest U.S. provider of prescription drugs, named Lofberg, 62, president of its pharmacy-benefits management, or PBM, business today after it lost $4.8 billion in 2010 contracts this year. He will start in his new role Jan. 4, Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS said today in a statement.
    Scientists are studying how people’s genetic make-up influences the effectiveness of certain medications, he said. By running tests, it’s possible to determine which treatments will provide the best results for each individual. That can reduce costs throughout the health-care industry, he said.
    CVS will introduce genetic testing in the second quarter through Generation Health Inc., a partner in which it said today it is taking an “increased ownership interest.” Lofberg is chief executive officer of Generation Health, which has contracts with laboratories across the U.S., he said.
    “Right now, there are about 30 or 40 important drugs where there are known relationships to people’s genetic patterns,” he said. “That number will go up quite a bit, so pretty much every pharmaceutical that’s being evaluated for approval and eventual marketing has some sort of genetic information being collected as part of the clinical development process.”
    Correcting the Focus
    Lofberg was previously chairman of Merck-Medco Managed Care LLC, which became Medco Health Solutions Inc., a CVS competitor.
    CVS Chief Executive Officer Tom Ryan took over the PBM unit last month after disclosing its contract losses. Ryan replaced Howard McLure, 52, who retired, CVS said Nov. 5.
    “Lofberg should be able to get the PBM business back on track,” said Adam Fein, president of Philadelphia-based Pembroke Consulting Inc., a health-care consulting firm. “Caremark needed someone with a lot of experience to ignite the innovative engine.”
    The new unit president has more than 30 years of experience in health care and the PBM industry, according to CVS.
    CVS rose $1.12, or 3.6 percent, to $32.30 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have risen 12 percent this year.

  3. Why do we need genetic info? First you don’t seem to be aware of how GINA defines genetic info, it isn’t limited to DNA and such testing. It is a terribly broad definition that catches much more. Next if someone has a family history of high blood pressure obviously we want that person getting tested regularly. How do we educate someone about an illness and helpprevent it if we aren’t allowed to see if it is there? PCPs don’t manage health they treat conditions. Now it would be nice if there was a rainbow every morning when I woke up and PCPs did manage health and we had health homes and all held hands as we sang but that isn’t reality and until that is reality I rather not piss away billions of dollar for no reason.
    To mock your position just a little are you saying a non compliant diabetic should be allowed to consume 100s of thousands of dollars of plan assets just becuase they choose not to take care of themselves? You really want to argue people should be allowed to spend as much of other people’s money as they like being as unhealthy as they like? And we wonder why liberal programs always fail. I know you know that is not sustainable. We can’t afford blank check treatments for people that CHOOSE to waste money. If your opinion is we can then not much else to say on that, we know how your plan ends.
    If people want to waste their own money and die with a cig in one hand and deep fried bacon wrapped twinkie in the other that is their right, you can’t expect me to pay for it though.

  4. Mandatory wellness program, Nate?
    What happened to freedom and all THAT hogwash, or is it just freedom to be uninsured that should be protected by the constitution?
    Never mind….
    Why is it exactly that you need genetic information as a prerequisite for participation in wellness programs? Wouldn’t a note from the primary care physician work just as well? Or are we thinking that the employers/insurers bureaucrats can identify risk better than a physician? I guess it depends on the definition of the word “risk”…..

  5. Claire hit the nail on the head, it was the way the idiots wrote the bill that create the problem. It already has had a huge impact on wellness, plans have already changed from GINA. Add to that what the EEOC has done and new ADA crap comming out and for all their talk about pushing wellness they set it back 20 years.
    And the ignornat, you earned this one, liberal hogwash about trusting evil boogyman corporations is BS from someone that hasn’t taken the time to learn what they are talking about. It is just as illegal to give someone an incentive under a blind plan with no possible way to link or reference the employee as it is under a plan where the employer sees the data. Discrimination and the threat of it has nothing to do with GINA the way it was written. We can’t even have an independent third party non profit quasi governmental entity manage the program with no reporting back to the group and force or over incentivise the employees to particiapte. Threat of discrimination was not a factor at all in writing these bills.
    If I wanted to hire the mayo clinic to run a mandatory wellness program I still couldn’t do it.

  6. The big issue seems to be that GINA takes away the incentives that can be offered to ask individuals to participate in wellness groups and engage in proactive preventative care.
    GINA and the DMAA both dont want people to be discriminated against by genetics/genetic testing, etc (good thing), the issue is how to incentivize and engage people to work towards wellness, if you take away some of the data sources (asking about family history of cardiometabolic conerns, looking at your labs, etc.).

  7. Trust??? So all the fringe lunatics who don’t trust their own government for the fear of death panels, are now going to trust the corporations of the US Chamber of Commerce to selflessly look after their wellness?

  8. Just to be clear on GINA’s actual impact on wellness and preventative care: I am not judging the technical merits of the DMAA position in a serious, lawyerly, policy wonk way. It may or may not have merit.
    I am judging them in a gut-reaction “Do you trust these guys to be looking after the rights of employees/patients?” In the court of public opinion, asking for a last-minute stay of the rules will require an awfully good explanation. Maybe they have one. Maybe.

  9. Michael are you claiming GINA doesn’t have an adverse impact on wellness and preventive care?

  10. I didn’t see the movie. The catch, of course, is that all of us are genetically flawed in one way or another — depending upon who is doing the judging.

  11. thanks for the post.
    They both sound a bit like that movie from a number of years back: Gattica.
    Did any of you see that? Couples could pick the exact genetic characteristics of their child. Ultimately it leaves people who have flaws in their genetic code (disease) to be elimiated.

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