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On World Asthma Day, Tips For Beating the Barriers to Better Breathing

  • Taking medications key to controlling asthma
  • UnitedHealthcare "Refill and Save Program" offers discounts on select asthma medications
  • Wet winter weather may make allergies and asthma worse this spring

MINNETONKA, Minn. (May 4, 2010) – Spring and early summer often pose additional challenges for the more than 23 million Americans – including more than 7 million children – who live with asthma. According to allergy and asthma experts, this spring may be particularly difficult as plants and trees are producing more pollen and spores  than in years past, due to greater levels of precipitation this winter.

"However, individuals who have asthma can still enjoy this season and live healthy, active lives all year round by following a few simple steps to avoid triggering asthma attacks," said Sam Ho, M.D., UnitedHealthcare executive vice president and chief medical officer.

Understand your asthma. Asthma is as unique as the person who has it. While indoor factors may spur an attack for some, outdoor factors may trigger an asthma attack for others. Keep a journal to track triggers, which may change from season to season. Note actual asthma attacks, including frequency and duration; use of maintenance medications and rescue inhalers; and other breathing-related data to share with your physician.

Take your medications. UnitedHealthcare estimates that about half of its health plan customers who take asthma medicines are not compliant with their prescriptions. Not taking needed medications or not taking them on time puts individuals at risk for more frequent and possibly more severe attacks.

Check for cost savings on your medications. Cost is one of the biggest reasons people do not refill their asthma prescriptions, but there are solutions.

Individuals should talk to their physician to identify and opt for more cost-effective and effective asthma drugs including maintenance inhalers such as Asmanex, Pulmicort Flexhaler and Qvar, and rescue inhalers such as Ventolin HFA. These inhalers, for example, are all on the lowest copay level of UnitedHealthcare's prescription drug list. In addition, UnitedHealthcare recently introduced the "Refill and Save Program," which offers $20 discounts off certain prescription drug copayments – a 40 percent savings on a typical copayment plan – including copays for asthma drugs Advair and Symbicort. The Refill and Save program is available to most of UnitedHealthcare's fully-insured commercial health plan customers.

Think ahead. If pollen is a trigger, check the daily pollen count that is often provided by the local newspaper, radio weather service or television news channels, and plan your activities accordingly. If traveling, research environmental factors that might affect your asthma and locate local health care providers in the event of an emergency. Whether home or away, make sure you have enough of your asthma medications on hand.

"Vigilance is key in reducing the impact of asthma on an individual's health. Patients with chronic diseases such as asthma who take their medicines regularly and comply with prescribed treatments are likely to stay healthier," said Dr. Ho. "They not only feel better but can potentially avoid costly medical problems that could result from delaying appropriate therapy."

Asthma is one of the country's most common and costly diseases with an estimated annual cost of $18 billion, according to the American Lung Association. Asthma accounts for nearly 17 million physician office and hospital visits and nearly 2 million emergency room visits each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC). In addition, the CDC reports that asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism for children, accounting for an estimated 14 million lost school days annually. For adults, the CDC reports that asthma is one of the leading causes of work absenteeism, accounting for an estimated 14 million lost workdays each year.

To find out more about UnitedHealthcare's "Refill and Save" program, go to www.uhc.com. For more information on asthma, visit www.cdc.gov/asthma.

About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare (www.unitedhealthcare.com) provides a full spectrum of consumer-oriented health benefit plans and services to individuals, public sector employers and businesses of all sizes, including more than half of the Fortune 100 companies. The company organizes access to quality, affordable health care services on behalf of approximately 25 million individual consumers, contracting directly with more than 600,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals to offer them broad, convenient access to services nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.

Contact:
Will Holman
UnitedHealthcare
(952) 992-4270
william_s_holman@uhc.com


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