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Preliminary Pilot Study Indicates Integrative Therapies Reduce Back Pain Medication Use and Costs

Preliminary Pilot Study Indicates Integrative Therapies Reduce Back Pain Medication Use and Costs

SAN DIEGO, Mar 11, 2010 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) —

A new pilot study conducted with assembly workers at the Ford Motor Company in Louisville, KY focused on acute, work-related low back pain. Results of that study indicate that high-touch Integrative Medicine (IM) therapies can help employees manage back pain without the costly medications typically associated with managing their pain.

Back pain is one of the leading causes of job-related disability among U.S. workers, and contributes to lost productivity and high medical and pharmaceutical costs for employers and their employees. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has estimated that chronic employee pain costs employers as much as $100 billion a year in direct medical expenses, lost workdays, reduced productivity, compensation payments, and legal charges.

This new study found that Integrative Medicine utilizing acupuncture and mind/body therapies, in conjunction with conventional medicine, provided the same outcomes as conventional back pain therapies, but reduced the use of pain medications among participants by 58 percent.

Conducted at the Ford Motor Kentucky Truck Plant, the study included a pilot group of assembly line employees diagnosed with low back pain. This group was divided into two subgroups and both groups received care at the onsite Ford clinic. One group received conventional pain management therapies, including pain medications. The second group utilized integrative therapies, including acupuncture and relaxation/meditation CDs, which were provided by Healthyroads, a subsidiary of American Specialty Health (ASH), to manage stress and pain. Both of the groups received treatments over a six-week period, with a 12-week follow-up.

“While the sample size was insufficient to adequately estimate the effect of the IM intervention on disability or absenteeism, the results have very positive implications for employers looking to manage their pharmacy costs associated with low back pain,” said Kenneth R. Pelletier, PhD, MD(hc), a co-principal investigator on the study. “A significant reduction in prescription pain medication intake was observed with the IM sample group. This suggests a potential economic benefit to companies who include Integrative Medicine in their health plans, and potential health and safety benefits to workers who use IM in place of narcotics and other pain medicines known to have adverse psychological and physical side effects.

“A further interesting observation is that the Healthyroads program was the one component of the intervention that was associated with a significant increase in meditation practice and a small but statistically significant improvement in four of the major outcome measures,” added Pelletier.

The study was conducted by a research team from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, University of Arizona School of Medicine, the University of California (UCSF) School of Medicine, and the Ford Motor Company, under the direction of Walter J. Talamonti,, MD, MPH, Ford Medical Director of Clinical Operations.

The results of the study were published in a letter in the current issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (Kimbrough, E., Lao, L., Berman, B., Pelletier, K., & Talamonti, W. (2010). Letters to the editor: An integrative medicine intervention in a Ford Motor Company assembly plant. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 52(3), 256-257.)

About American Specialty Health

American Specialty Health Incorporated (ASH) is a national health and wellness company that provides prevention and wellness services, specialty network management programs, and fitness and exercise services to health plans, insurance carriers, employer groups, and trust funds. Based in San Diego, ASH has more than 700 employees and covers over 15.6 million members.

Healthyroads, Inc. is the prevention and wellness services subsidiary of ASH. Healthyroads offers a wide range of wellness solutions — including award-winning telephone-based coaching programs for a broad range of lifestyle areas, incentive management programs, competitive challenges, worksite programs and its integrated Web site, Healthyroads.com.

For more information about ASH health and wellness programs, visit www.ASHCompanies.com or call 800.848.3555.

This news release was distributed by GlobeNewswire, www.globenewswire.com

SOURCE: American Specialty Health

CONTACT: American Specialty Health

Debby Clark

619.578.2000

debbyc@ashn.com

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