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Kids Growing Up on Grown Up Drugs: New Research Shows Treatments for Adult Ailments Rapidly Rising in Children
Date:5/15/2008

Lifestyle Factors Pushing Children's Use of Prescription Drugs for Health

Conditions Once Seen Primarily in Adults

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J., May 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Health problems long considered adult conditions and caused in large part by lifestyle factors are rapidly afflicting children and leading to a surge in pediatric use of prescription drugs to treat these ills.

New research released today by Medco Health Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MHS) shows that the number of children taking medications to treat type 2 diabetes, sleep problems and gastrointestinal disorders such as heartburn has more than doubled in a seven-year span. Based on this data, there are now approximately 1.2 million children in the U.S. taking these traditionally adult medications.

The analysis, which reviewed prescription claims of about 600,000 insured children ages 19 and under, also reveals that heart disease-related conditions are creeping into childhood. While the prevalence rate is still quite small, the use of medications to treat high cholesterol and high blood pressure in children is on the rise.

"It's a 21st century reality that pediatricians are treating more and more young people suffering from conditions like type 2 diabetes once associated almost exclusively with adults," states Dr. Renee Jenkins, FAAP, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise should always be recommended to patients and evaluated by physicians before they prescribe any medications."

According to the research, use of type 2 diabetes medications saw the greatest spike, rising more than 150 percent from 2001 to 2007; girls led the way with a three-fold increase. The prevalence of children on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) -- medications used to treat heartburn and gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) -- rose 137 percent in the same time frame. Prescription sleep aid use showed the slowest growth over the seven-year period, up 34 percent among all children; but was almost twice as high (62 percent) for children ages 10-19. One encouraging sign is that the prevalence of children on hypnotics actually declined from 2006 to 2007, suggesting that physicians and parents may be rethinking the use of these medications in children.

Adding Pediatric Pressures to an Overburdened Health Care System

This research also raises serious questions about how well-equipped our health care system is for dealing with these growing numbers of young people afflicted with adult conditions. According to a recent study in The Journal of Pediatrics, the number of practicing pediatric endocrinologists, specialists who treat diabetes patients, is not keeping pace with the growth in the prevalence of childhood diabetes. The study found that there is only one endocrinologist available for every 290 children with diabetes and every 17,000 obese children who may be at risk for developing diabetes. Studies have also shown shortages in other pediatric subspecialties which could severely impact the care necessary for children with cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems.

"Our pediatric specialist care system is already overtaxed; we could be facing a real crisis if these adult conditions become increasingly prevalent in children and require specialized care," said Dr. Robert Epstein, Medco's chief medical officer. "We're also looking at potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in added health care costs with children developing chronic conditions early in life that could extend into their adulthood."

Rx for Safe Medication Use

With increasing medication use among the pediatric population, ensuring that prescription drugs are being utilized safely and properly in children is of paramount concern. Medco provides several safety nets for pediatric patients including a comprehensive drug utilization review (DUR) system that puts every prescription a child is on through a comprehensive clinical rules set. The system assesses if the drug and the dose is appropriate given the patient's age. In addition, the system fires an alert if a new medication were to interact negatively with another prescription, putting the child at risk for an adverse drug event. Medco's advanced pharmacy practice also has specialist pharmacists trained and uniquely experienced in caring for patients with specific chronic conditions such as diabetes, and gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and neurological problems, that can assist children and their families in better managing their treatments and health conditions should an issue arise.

About Medco

Medco Health Solutions, Inc., (NYSE: MHS) is the nation's leading pharmacy benefit manager based on its 2007 total net revenues of more than $44 billion. Medco's prescription drug benefit programs, covering approximately one-in-five Americans, are designed to drive down the cost of pharmacy health care for private and public employers, health plans, labor unions and government agencies of all sizes, and for individuals served by the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program and those served by its specialty pharmacy segment, Accredo Health Group. Medco, the world's most advanced pharmacy(TM), is positioned to serve the unique needs of patients with chronic and complex conditions through its Medco Therapeutic Resource Centers(R), including its enhanced diabetes pharmacy care practice through the Liberty acquisition. Medco is the highest-ranked independent pharmacy benefit manager on the 2008 Fortune 100 list. On the Net: http://www.medco.com.

This press release contains "forward-looking statements" as that term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause results to differ materially from those set forth in the statements. No forward-looking statement can be guaranteed, and actual results may differ materially from those projected. We undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise. Forward-looking statements in this press release should be evaluated together with the risks and uncertainties that affect our business, particularly those mentioned in the Risk Factors section of the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K and Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


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SOURCE Medco Health Solutions, Inc.
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