May 2015 Newsletter
 

At Consumer Reports Health, we are focused on reducing unnecessary medical and financial harm to patients, whether in the doctor's office, the hospital, or at the pharmacy counter.

 

In the case of drugs, manufacturers spend billions of dollars each year to promote medications to consumers and healthcare providers. But are these drugs effective and safe? Which ones are best? And how much do they cost? Many people struggle to answer those questions. While Consumer Reports doesn't test drugs in the same way we test cars, refrigerators or lawnmowers, through a grant-funded project called Best Buy Drugs, we review large-scale analyses of common medications to make recommendations about which ones are a good, cost-effective first choice and when you might be able to try non-drug options first. To understand what consumers experience at the drugstore, we use an army of secret shoppers, nationally representative telephone surveys, large-scale pricing data and one-on-one interviews. 

 

Americans and their insurance companies spent $6 billion on the acid-reflux drug Nexium in 2012, making it the top-selling branded prescription medication. But Best Buy Drugs' review of the research showed Nexium, and other drugs in this class including Prevacid 24HR and Prilosec OTC, called proton-pump inhibitors, are roughly equal in how well they work and in their safety profile. More importantly though, a majority of people who take them don't actually need them and could instead use less potent treatments, such as less expensive over-the-counter remedies.

 

Best Buy Drugs celebrated its 10th anniversary last month -- but there is plenty more to be done to improve the marketplace for consumers. We are always seeking collaborative partnerships to help distribute information or create materials to reach specific audiences at the point of decision-making. If you or your organization are interested in learning more or becoming a partner, please contact us: [email protected].

 

Tara Montgomery
Senior Director, Health Impact

Tools for employees: app, video, website
In an effort to help employees make wise choices for their health, Consumer Reports has developed a Making Healthy Choices toolkit.  This toolkit was prompted by a request from IBM, which was seeking tools that offered their 200,000 U.S.-based employees unbiased information on health care quality and cost.  Consumer Reports developed a script for a video series that would help employees understand that "making healthy choices" about their healthcare is an option for them. To encourage utilization, IBM offered financial incentives toward a health savings account for employees and their family members who used the tools and viewed the video. Consumer Reports has also created an iOS app, as a companion to the video and website.  We are offering the complete, no-cost toolset (video, website and app) as a pilot to any employer interested in trying this out during the summer.  Full rollout to all partners will be in the early fall.  To learn more about this opportunity, please contact us at [email protected].

New resource helps consumer advocates

Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, recently launched the Health Care Value Hub, a networking and resource center for consumer advocates working for lower costs and better value in health care. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Health Care Value Hub connects consumer advocates across the U.S. and provides them with comprehensive, research-based information and tools to help them advocate for policies that reduce health care costs and increase quality. A free monthly Research Roundup highlights new studies and reports of interest to those wanting to improve health care value. 

Register for Preventing Overdiagnosis 2015
We are pleased to announce a third Preventing Overdiagnosis conference, to be held September 1-3, 2015, in Bethesda, Maryland. It will be hosted by the National Cancer Institute. Preventing Overdiagnosis is a Consumer Reports campaign, and we are proud to sponsor the conference. The U.S. spends more than $200 billion on unnecessary medical care each year, according to recent estimates published by BMJ. Ever-more-sensitive screening tests, combined with the broadening of disease definitions, leads to patients experiencing increasing amounts of medical treatments and tests they do not need, which may actually cause them harm. Building on existing knowledge and activity, the 2015 conference is designed to provide a forum for learning more, increase awareness, and develop ways to prevent the problem. 
Webinar: Launching your own campaign
We've had many requests for a clear, stepwise guide to launching an effective Choosing Wisely campaign.  So we've pulled together the lessons learned by many partners and grantees. (Their secret: Keep it simple.) The resulting Implementation Guide will go online in a few weeks. To learn more about the new guide, and hear from successful early adopters of the Choosing Wisely effort, join our June 16 webinar, at 1 pm Eastern time. Future webinars: Sept. 15, Making Healthy Choices toolkit; Oct. 6, Preventing Overdiagnosis, and High Value Care; Nov. 10, Reaching Latino Audiences.

A new Consumer Health Choices partner
Lamaze International, founded in 1960, is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is "to advance safe and healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy." Members include health care professionals, providers and, parents, and Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators who carry the internationally respected LCCE certification credential. Knowing that pregnancy, childbirth and a good start to parenting can be demanding on a woman's body and mind, Lamaze serves as a resource for information about what to expect and what choices are available. Working closely with their families, health care providers and Lamaze certified educators, millions of pregnant women have achieved their desired childbirth outcomes using Lamaze practices.


Support our work
Knowing that you're a fan of Consumer Reports Health, we'd like to invite you to make a charitable contribution. Your contribution will help us remain a leading voice in championing consumers' access to high-quality health care. We hope you'll find it's a cause worthy of your support.

You can easily donate online or email us at [email protected] if
you have questions.


In the news
New Yorker: Atul Gawande describes America's Epidemic of Unnecessary Care


BBC: The Choosing Wisely campaign is launched in the UK. Doctors Urged to Stop Over-treating


 

NPR: Anders Kelto looks at clinical guidelines and Why Many Doctors Don't Follow 'Best Practices' .