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Study Finds Disparities in Breast Cancer Treatment Even Among Fully-Insured African-American and Caucasian Women
Date:6/1/2008

WellPoint's Health Outcomes Research Subsidiary HealthCore Presents Data on Contributing Factors and Steps that Could Be Taken to Improve Treatment of

Women with Breast Cancer and Reduce Disparities

INDIANAPOLIS, June 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- HealthCore today presented a study [Abstract No: 6593] comparing treatment patterns and adherence to established treatment guidelines for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago. While previous research has shown a relationship between the African-American race and increased breast cancer mortality in the general population, HealthCore sought to understand why similarly increased rates exist even among African-American women with health insurance.

The study, funded by Amgen, analyzed administrative claims data and patient medical charts for more than 3,000 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGA) members who were diagnosed with breast cancer between January 2000 and August 2005. HealthCore chose to evaluate disparities in care among the insured population to help health plans and physicians identify opportunities and strategies to improve outcomes for women with breast cancer.

"Our data indicates that while significant disparities in care still exist between African-American and Caucasian women, steps can be taken to reduce these differences among the fully insured population," said Louise Short, M.D, MSc, lead investigator for the study and Director of HealthCore's Integrated Research Network.

HealthCore researchers found the factors predicting worse outcomes for African-American vs. Caucasian women with newly diagnosed breast cancer in a fully insured population were consistent with those factors identified by the current medical literature for the general population. The contributing factors HealthCore identified included: diagnosis at a younger age (49.4 vs. 52.4 years; p<0.01) and later stage (p=0.008): a lower prevalence of hormone positive disease (56 percent vs. 75 percent; p<0.01): lower rates of hormone therapy for certain types of patients; and higher prevalence of hypertension (46.5 percent vs. 21.6 percent; p<0.01). In a commercially-insured population, these findings highlight the importance of developing culturally sensitive and targeted interventions to increase earlier detection of breast cancer in African-Americans, increase the percentage of patients that receive hormonal therapy when it is indicated, and include management of co-morbid conditions.

"BCBSGA and other WellPoint companies are developing approaches to assist physicians in treatment documentation while working to raise awareness of earlier detection of breast cancer and treatment options for the disease among African-American women in Georgia," said Sandra White, M.D., medical director for BCBSGA.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Breast cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in Hispanic women and the second most common cause of cancer death in Caucasian, African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.

"In an effort to improve overall quality of cancer care, it's critical to examine disparities in treatment facing different populations," said Otis Brawley, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society (ACS) and a co-author on the study. "This study is among the first to examine the care received by a fully-insured population, and our data shows that while health insurance is an important predictor of the quality of care an individual receives, it's not the only factor. African-American women with insurance often do not receive the same level of care as their Caucasian counterparts, and we must work to improve care and outcomes among this population."

HealthCore, a subsidiary of WellPoint, is a health outcomes and clinical research organization that has served the needs of health plans, government agencies, physician practices and pharmaceutical manufacturers since 1996. HealthCore focuses on providing evidence of the real-world safety and effectiveness of therapeutics; offering insight to best utilize this evidence; and communicating these findings to health care decision-makers. The company's work is increasingly used to support evidence-based medicine, process improvement and patient-reported outcomes.

About WellPoint, Inc.

WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE: WLP) is the largest publicly traded commercial health benefits company in terms of membership in the United States. WellPoint, Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and serves its members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as Blue Cross Blue Shield in 10 New York City metropolitan counties and as Blue Cross, Blue Shield or Blue Cross Blue Shield in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), Wisconsin; and through UniCare. Additional information about WellPoint is available at http://www.wellpoint.com .


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SOURCE WellPoint, Inc.
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