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1.  Update on inflation of journal prices: Brandon/Hill list journals and the scientific, technical, and medical publishing market* 
Objective: The original study of journal prices, using the “Brandon/ Hill Selected List of Books and Journals for the Small Medical Library,” was first published in 1980 and periodically updated. This research continues to measure price increases for these titles for the periods 1996 to 1999 and 1999 to 2002.
Methodology: The 111 journal titles that have appeared in each published list from 1967 to 2001 were included in the study. Institutional subscription price data were gathered for each journal for the years 1996, 1999, and 2002 and were compared to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the same years.
Results: The average journal price continues to rise significantly and is independent of the CPI. The study found that prices have jumped 51.9% from 1996 to 1999 and 32% from 1999 to 2002, which is consistent with nearly every recent journal price study.
Conclusion: The unprecedented rise in journal prices negatively affects the purchasing power of medical libraries. This paper examines the economic and technological pressures on the science, technology, and medical journals market that contribute to high prices and identifies a number of initiatives in the biological and health sciences that utilize alternative models for disseminating scientific research.
PMCID: PMC442172  PMID: 15243636
2.  Electronic journal access: how does it affect the print subscription price?* 
Objective: This study examined the rates of print journal subscription price increases according to the type of available electronic access. The types of access included: electronic priced separately from the print, combination print with “free online” access, and aggregated, defined here as electronic access purchased as part of a collection. The percentages of print price increases were compared to each other and to that for titles available only in print. The authors were not aware of prior objective research in this area.
Methods: The authors analyzed the percentage print price increases of 300 journals over a five-year time period. The titles were grouped according to type of available electronic access. The median and mean percentage print price increases were calculated and plotted for all titles within each group.
Results: Using both the median and the mean to look at the percentage print price increases over five years, it was obvious that print prices for journals with electronic access exceeded journals that did not offer an electronic option. Electronic priced separately averaged 3% to 5% higher than print only titles using both measures. Combination print with “free online” access had higher increases from 1996 to 1999, but, in 2000, their percentage increases were about the same as print only titles. The rate of price increases for aggregated titles consistently went down over the past five years. Journals with no electronic option showed the lowest percentage rates of print price increase.
Conclusions: The authors' findings reveal that the increases of print prices for their sample of titles were higher if a type of electronic access was offered. According to the results of this study, aggregated collections currently represent the electronic option whose percentage price increase for print prices was lowest. However, the uneven fluctuations in rates of subscription prices revealed that the pricing of journals with electronic access is still evolving. More study is recommended to see if the trends observed in this study are sustained over a longer time period.
PMCID: PMC57965  PMID: 11837258
3.  Impact of reference-based pricing for angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors on drug utilization 
Increasing copayments for higher-priced prescription medications has been suggested as a means to help finance drug coverage for elderly patients, but evaluations of the impact of such policies are rare. The objective of this study was to analyze the effect of reference-based pricing of angiotensin- converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors on drug utilization, cost savings and potential substitution with other medication classes.
We analyzed 36 months of claims data from British Columbia for 2 years before and 1 year after implementation of reference-based pricing (in January 1997). The 119 074 patients were community-living Pharmacare beneficiaries 65 years of age or older who used ACE inhibitors during the study period. The main outcomes were changes over time in use of ACE inhibitors, use of antihypertensive drugs and expenditures for antihypertensive drugs, as well as predictors of medication switching related to reference-based pricing.
We observed a sharp decline (29%) in the use of higher-priced cost-shared ACE inhibitors immediately after implementation of the policy (p < 0.001). After a transition period, the post-implementation utilization rate for all ACE inhibitors was 11% lower than projected from pre-implementation data. However, overall utilization of antihypertensives was unchanged (p = 0.40). The policy saved $6.7 million in pharmaceutical expenditures during its first 12 months. Patients with heart failure or diabetes mellitus who were taking a cost-shared ACE inhibitor were more likely to remain on the same medication after implementation of reference-based pricing (OR 1.12 [95% confidence interval, CI, 1.06–1.19] and 1.28 [95% CI 1.20–1.36] respectively). Patients with low-income status were more likely than those with high-income status to stop all antihypertensive therapy (OR 1.65 [95% CI 1.43–1.89]), which reflects a general trend toward discontinuation of therapy among these patients even before implementation of reference-based pricing.
Reference-based pricing in British Columbia achieved a sustained reduction in drug expenditures, and no changes in overall use of antihypertensive therapy were observed. Further research is needed on the overall health and economic effects of such policies.
PMCID: PMC99452  PMID: 11944760
4.  Evaluating Drug Prices, Availability, Affordability, and Price Components: Implications for Access to Drugs in Malaysia 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e82.
Malaysia's stable health care system is facing challenges with increasing medicine costs. To investigate these issues a survey was carried out to evaluate medicine prices, availability, affordability, and the structure of price components.
Methods and Findings
The methodology developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Action International (HAI) was used. Price and availability data for 48 medicines was collected from 20 public sector facilities, 32 private sector retail pharmacies and 20 dispensing doctors in four geographical regions of West Malaysia. Medicine prices were compared with international reference prices (IRPs) to obtain a median price ratio. The daily wage of the lowest paid unskilled government worker was used to gauge the affordability of medicines. Price component data were collected throughout the supply chain, and markups, taxes, and other distribution costs were identified. In private pharmacies, innovator brand (IB) prices were 16 times higher than the IRPs, while generics were 6.6 times higher. In dispensing doctor clinics, the figures were 15 times higher for innovator brands and 7.5 for generics. Dispensing doctors applied high markups of 50%–76% for IBs, and up to 316% for generics. Retail pharmacy markups were also high—25%–38% and 100%–140% for IBs and generics, respectively. In the public sector, where medicines are free, availability was low even for medicines on the National Essential Drugs List. For a month's treatment for peptic ulcer disease and hypertension people have to pay about a week's wages in the private sector.
The free market by definition does not control medicine prices, necessitating price monitoring and control mechanisms. Markups for generic products are greater than for IBs. Reducing the base price without controlling markups may increase profits for retailers and dispensing doctors without reducing the price paid by end users. To increase access and affordability, promotion of generic medicines and improved availability of medicines in the public sector are required.
Drug price and availability data were collected from West Malaysian public sector facilities, private sector retail pharmacies, and dispensing doctors. Mark-ups were higher on generic drugs than on innovator brands.
Editors' Summary
The World Health Organization has said that one-third of the people of the world cannot access the medicines they need. An important reason for this problem is that prices are often too high for people or government-funded health systems to afford. In developing countries, most people who need medicines have to pay for them out of their own pockets. Where the cost of drugs is covered by health systems, spending on medicines is a major part of the total healthcare budget. Governments use a variety of approaches to try to control the cost of drugs and make sure that essential medicines are affordable and not overpriced. According to the theory of “free market economics,” the costs of goods and services are determined by interactions between buyers and sellers and not by government intervention. However, free market economics does not work well at containing the costs of medicines, particularly new medicines, because new medicines are protected by patent law, which legally prevents others from making, using, or selling the medicine for a particular period of time. Therefore, without government intervention, there is nothing to help to push down prices.
Why Was This Study Done?
Malaysia is a middle-income country with a relatively effective public health system, but it is facing a rapid rise in drug costs. In Malaysia, medicine prices are determined by free-market economics, without any control by government. Government hospitals are expected to provide drugs free, but a substantial proportion of medicines are paid for by patients who buy them directly from private pharmacies or prescribing doctors. There is evidence that Malaysian patients have difficulties accessing the drugs they need and that cost is an important factor. Therefore, the researchers who wrote this paper wanted to examine the cost of different medicines in Malaysia, and their availability and affordability from different sources.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In this research project, 48 drugs were studied, of which 28 were part of a “core list” identified by the World Health Organization as “essential drugs” on the basis of the global burden of disease. The remaining 20 reflected health care needs in Malaysia itself. The costs of each medicine were collected from government hospitals, private pharmacies, and dispensing doctors in four different regions of Malaysia. Data were collected for the “innovator brand” (made by the original patent holder) and for “generic” brands (an equivalent drug to the innovator brand, produced by a different company once the innovator brand no longer has an exclusive patent). The medicine prices were compared against international reference prices (IRP), which are the average prices offered by not-for-profit drug companies to developing countries. Finally, the researchers also compared the cost of the drugs with daily wages, in order to work out their “affordability.”
The researchers found that, irrespective of the source of medicines, prices were on average very much higher than the international reference price, ranging from 2.4 times the IRP for innovator brands accessed through public hospitals, to 16 times the IRP for innovator brands accessed through private pharmacies. The availability of medicines was also very poor, with only 25% of generic medicines available on average through the public sector. The affordability of many of the medicines studied was again very poor. For example, one month's supply of ranitidine (a drug for stomach ulcers) was equivalent to around three days' wages for a low-paid government worker, and one month's supply of fluoxetine (an antidepressant) would cost around 26 days' wages.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results show that essential drugs are very expensive in Malaysia and are not universally available. Many people would not be able to pay for essential medicines. The cost of medicines in Malaysia seems to be much higher than in areas of India and Sri Lanka, although the researchers did not attempt to collect data in order to carry out an international comparison. It is possible that the high cost and low availability in Malaysia are the result of a lack of government regulation. Overall, the findings suggest that the government should set up mechanisms to prevent drug manufacturers from increasing prices too much and thus ensure greater access to essential medicines.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article by Suzanne Hill
Information is available from the World Health Organization on Improving Access to Medicines
Information on medicine prices is available from Health Action International
Wikipedia has an entry on Patent (a type of intellectual property that is normally used to prevent other companies from selling a newly invented medicine). (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit.)
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative is an international collaboration between public organizations that aims to develop drugs for people suffering from neglected diseases
PMCID: PMC1831730  PMID: 17388660
5.  Marketing before patenting: implications for price controls in Canada 
Open Medicine  2010;4(3):e139-e142.
The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) regulates the introductory price of new patented medications in Canada. Some drugs are marketed before they are patented and are therefore outside the authority of the PMPRB. This study was undertaken to determine how many drugs fall into this category, the time period between marketing and patenting, and the excess revenue, if any, earned before prices are subject to regulation. Between 2000 and 2008 a total of 42 drugs were marketed before being patented. Complete data were not available for 9 of these, leaving 33 of the 42 for analysis. Drugs were potentially being marketed between 54 and 2707 days before they came under PMPRB jurisdiction. Three products were eventually deemed to have exceeded the maximum introductory price, and the total excess revenue for these 3 was $9,289,688. Although only 3 of 33 drugs were found to be overpriced, the fact that prices can go unregulated for up to 7.4 years is troublesome. If companies are charging excessive prices, then the additional payments they receive may limit the ability of provincial formularies to list additional drugs. Controlling prices on the basis of patent status has significant limitations, and a new system that deals with prices of all medications should be developed.
PMCID: PMC3090102  PMID: 21687333
6.  Effects of minimum unit pricing for alcohol on different income and socioeconomic groups: a modelling study 
Lancet  2014;383(9929):1655-1664.
Several countries are considering a minimum price policy for alcohol, but concerns exist about the potential effects on drinkers with low incomes. We aimed to assess the effect of a £0·45 minimum unit price (1 unit is 8 g/10 mL ethanol) in England across the income and socioeconomic distributions.
We used the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (SAPM) version 2.6, a causal, deterministic, epidemiological model, to assess effects of a minimum unit price policy. SAPM accounts for alcohol purchasing and consumption preferences for population subgroups including income and socioeconomic groups. Purchasing preferences are regarded as the types and volumes of alcohol beverages, prices paid, and the balance between on-trade (eg, bars) and off-trade (eg, shops). We estimated price elasticities from 9 years of survey data and did sensitivity analyses with alternative elasticities. We assessed effects of the policy on moderate, hazardous, and harmful drinkers, split into three socioeconomic groups (living in routine or manual households, intermediate households, and managerial or professional households). We examined policy effects on alcohol consumption, spending, rates of alcohol-related health harm, and opportunity costs associated with that harm. Rates of harm and costs were estimated for a 10 year period after policy implementation. We adjusted baseline rates of mortality and morbidity to account for differential risk between socioeconomic groups.
Overall, a minimum unit price of £0·45 led to an immediate reduction in consumption of 1·6% (−11·7 units per drinker per year) in our model. Moderate drinkers were least affected in terms of consumption (−3·8 units per drinker per year for the lowest income quintile vs 0·8 units increase for the highest income quintile) and spending (increase in spending of £0·04 vs £1·86 per year). The greatest behavioural changes occurred in harmful drinkers (change in consumption of −3·7% or −138·2 units per drinker per year, with a decrease in spending of £4·01), especially in the lowest income quintile (−7·6% or −299·8 units per drinker per year, with a decrease in spending of £34·63) compared with the highest income quintile (−1·0% or −34·3 units, with an increase in spending of £16·35). Estimated health benefits from the policy were also unequally distributed. Individuals in the lowest socioeconomic group (living in routine or manual worker households and comprising 41·7% of the sample population) would accrue 81·8% of reductions in premature deaths and 87·1% of gains in terms of quality-adjusted life-years.
Irrespective of income, moderate drinkers were little affected by a minimum unit price of £0·45 in our model, with the greatest effects noted for harmful drinkers. Because harmful drinkers on low incomes purchase more alcohol at less than the minimum unit price threshold compared with other groups, they would be affected most by this policy. Large reductions in consumption in this group would however coincide with substantial health gains in terms of morbidity and mortality related to reduced alcohol consumption.
UK Medical Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council (grant G1000043).
PMCID: PMC4018486  PMID: 24522180
7.  Medical Care Price Indexes for Patients with Employer-Provided Insurance: Nationally Representative Estimates from MarketScan Data 
Health Services Research  2012;48(3):1173-1190.
Commonly observed shifts in the utilization of medical care services to treat diseases may pose problems for official price indexes at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that do not account for service shifts. We examine how these shifts may lead to different price estimates than those observed in official price statistics at the BLS.
Data Sources
We use a convenience sample of enrollees with employer-provided insurance from the MarketScan database for the years 2003 to 2007. Population weights that consider the age, sex, and geographic distribution of enrollees are assigned to construct representative estimates.
Study Design
We compare two types of price indexes: (1) a Service Price Index (SPI) that is similar to the BLS index, which holds services fixed and measures the prices of the underlying treatments; (2) a Medical Care Expenditure Index (MCE) that measures the cost of treating diseases and allows for utilization shifts.
Principal Findings
Over the entire period of study the CAGR of the SPI grows 0.7 percentage points faster than the preferred MCE index.
Our findings suggest that the health component of inflation may be overstated by 0.7 percentage points per year, and real GDP growth may be understated by a similar amount. However, more work may be necessary to precisely replicate the indexes of the BLS to obtain a more accurate measure of these price differences.
PMCID: PMC3681249  PMID: 23088562
8.  Annual expenditures for nursing home care: Private and public payer price growth, 1977–2004 
Medical care  2009;47(3):295-301.
Long-term nursing home care is primarily funded by out-of-pocket payments and public Medicaid programs. Few studies have explored price growth in nursing home care, particularly trends in the real cost of a year spent in a nursing home.
To evaluate changes in private and public prices for annual nursing home care from 1977 to 2004, and to compare nursing home price growth to overall price growth and growth in the price of medical care.
Research Design
We estimated annual private prices for nursing home care between 1977 and 2004 using data from the National Nursing Home Survey. We compared private nursing home price growth to public prices obtained from surveys of state Medicaid offices, and evaluated the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Indexes to compare prices for nursing homes, medical care, and general goods and services over time.
Annual private pay nursing homes prices grew by 7.5% annually from $8,645 in 1977 to $60,249 in 2004. Medicaid prices grew by 6.7% annually from $9,491 in 1979 to $48,056 in 2004. Annual price growth for private pay nursing home care outpaced medical care and other goods and services (7.5% vs. 6.6% and 4.4%, respectively) between 1977 and 2004.
The recent rapid growth in nursing home prices is likely to persist, due to an aging population and greater disability among the near-elderly. The result will place increasing financial pressure on Medicaid programs. Better data on nursing prices are critical for policy-makers and researchers.
PMCID: PMC2763425  PMID: 19194339
nursing homes; prices; inflation
9.  A study to evaluate the price control of antifungal medicines and its practical applicability 
Indian Journal of Pharmacology  2012;44(6):704-709.
Superficial fungal infections are common and treatment imposes economic burden on the patients. Government of India had introduced price control over griseofulvin and tolnaftate in 1995; however, this measure can only benefit the needy if the policy is harmonized with the health-care service provider, that is, dermatologists. The aim of this study was to evaluate the existing Government mechanisms over price control of antifungal medications and its reach to the people-in-need.
Materials and Methods:
A questionnaire-based, cross-sectional study was carried out over a period of 6 months. Questionnaire was mailed to members of a state branch of Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists, and Leprologists. Responses reaching investigators within 2 months from the date of mailing were finally analyzed.
Among 93 (41.33%) respondents, only 6 (6.5%) were aware of existing price control over griseofulvin but none about tolnaftate. Thirty-nine (41.9%) respondents were in favor of introducing price control on terbinafine and 42 (45.2%) for itraconazole. The topically preferred antifungals were primarily azoles and terbinafine, while among systemic antifungals, dermatologists mostly preferred fluconazole and terbinafine. The choice of antifungals by the dermatologists matched with the evidence-based dermatology data.
Currently, price-controlled antifungal drugs are less commonly used by practitioners. Although the dermatologists favor price control, the initiative undertaken by the Government has not reached them. This shows the need to bridge the gap between policy makers and health-care service providers to help the ailing population.
PMCID: PMC3523496  PMID: 23248398
Antifungal medications; drug price control order; Government of India
10.  Proofs for PLOS ONE Paper : Does Pharmaceutical Pricing Transparency Matter? Examining Brazil’s Public Procurement System 
We review procurement and pricing transparency practices for pharmaceutical products. We specifically focus on Brazil and examine its approach to increasing pricing transparency, with the aim of determining the level of effectiveness in lower prices using a tool (Banco de Preços em Saúde, BPS) that only reveals purchase prices as compared to other tools (in other countries) that establish a greater degree of price transparency.
A general report of Preços em Saúde (BPS) and Sistema Integrado de Administração de Serviços Gerais (SIASG) pricing data was created for 25 drugs that met specific criteria. To explore the linear time trend of each of the drugs, separate regression models were fitted for each drug, resulting in a total of 19 models. Each model controlled for the state variable and the interaction between state and time, in order to accommodate expected heterogeneity in the data. Additionally, the models controlled for procurement quantities and the effect they have on the unit price. Secondary analysis using mixed effects models was also carried out to account for the impact that institutions and suppliers may have upon the unit price. Adjusting for these predictor variables (procurement quantities, supplier, purchasing institution) was important to determine the sole effect that time has had on unit prices. A total of 2 x 19 = 38 models were estimated to explore the overall effect of time on changes in unit price. All statistical analyses were performed using the R statistical software, while the linear mixed effects models were fitted using the lme4 R package.
The findings from our analysis suggest that there is no pattern of consistent price decreases within the two Brazilian states during the five-year period for which the prices were analyzed.
While the BPS does allow for an increase in transparency and information on drug purchase prices in Brazil, it has not shown to lead to consistent reductions in drug purchase prices for some of the most widely used medicines. This is indicative of a limited model for addressing the challenges in pharmaceutical procurement and puts into question the value of tools used globally to improve transparency in pharmaceutical pricing.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12992-015-0118-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4523918  PMID: 26238110
Pharmaceutical procurement; Brazil; Banco de Preços em Saúde; Drug prices; Transparency; Transparency tool; Medicine prices
11.  Analysis of external and internal interlibrary loan requests: aid in collection management. 
The analysis of 60,779 external interlibrary loan requests for copies of periodical articles from the collection of Erasmus University Medical Library in 1988 is described. The study was used for planning the length of backruns to be retained due to space limitations that forced the disposal of older volumes. More than 50% of requests were for the most recent two-year period, and 90% of requests could be filled with a twenty-year run of periodicals. In 1989, 4,157 internal requests were received for periodicals not owned; these were analyzed to determine those most commonly requested. Prior to subscribing, new titles were reviewed as to price, bibliometric indicators, number of requests, length of backfile, and the number of requesting departments. The Library Advisory Board decides on cancellation or purchase of periodicals; the elements considered are described.
PMCID: PMC225436  PMID: 2224296
12.  Living Alone and Alcohol-Related Mortality: A Population-Based Cohort Study from Finland 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(9):e1001094.
Kimmo Herttua and colleagues showed that living alone is associated with a substantially increased risk of alcohol-related mortality, irrespective of gender, socioeconomic status, or cause of death, and that this effect was exacerbated after a price reduction in alcohol in 2004.
Social isolation and living alone are increasingly common in industrialised countries. However, few studies have investigated the potential public health implications of this trend. We estimated the relative risk of death from alcohol-related causes among individuals living alone and determined whether this risk changed after a large reduction in alcohol prices.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a population-based natural experimental study of a change in the price of alcohol that occurred because of new laws enacted in Finland in January and March of 2004, utilising national registers. The data are based on an 11% sample of the Finnish population aged 15–79 y supplemented with an oversample of deaths. The oversample covered 80% of all deaths during the periods January 1, 2000–December 31, 2003 (the four years immediately before the price reduction of alcohol), and January 1, 2004–December 31, 2007 (the four years immediately after the price reduction). Alcohol-related mortality was defined using both underlying and contributory causes of death. During the 8-y follow-up about 18,200 persons died due to alcohol-related causes. Among married or cohabiting people the increase in alcohol-related mortality was small or non-existing between the periods 2000–2003 and 2004–2007, whereas for those living alone, this increase was substantial, especially in men and women aged 50–69 y. For liver disease in men, the most common fatal alcohol-related disease, the age-adjusted risk ratio associated with living alone was 3.7 (95% confidence interval 3.3, 4.1) before and 4.9 (95% CI 4.4, 5.4) after the price reduction (p<0.001 for difference in risk ratios). In women, the corresponding risk ratios were 1.7 (95% CI 1.4, 2.1) and 2.4 (95% CI 2.0, 2.9), respectively (p ≤ 0.01). Living alone was also associated with other mortality from alcohol-related diseases (range of risk ratios 2.3 to 8.0) as well as deaths from accidents and violence with alcohol as a contributing cause (risk ratios between 2.1 and 4.7), both before and after the price reduction.
Living alone is associated with a substantially increased risk of alcohol-related mortality, irrespective of gender, socioeconomic status, or the specific cause of death. The greater availability of alcohol in Finland after legislation-instituted price reductions in the first three months of 2004 increased in particular the relative excess in fatal liver disease among individuals living alone.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Throughout most of human history, people have lived in tight-knit communities where there was likely to be someone to turn to for help, advice, or company. But the modern way of life in industrialized countries is greatly reducing the quantity and quality of social relationships. Instead of living in extended families, many people now live miles away from their relatives, often living and working alone. Others commute long distances to work, which leaves little time for socializing with friends or relatives. And many delay or forgo getting married and having children. Consequently, loneliness and social isolation are getting more common. In the UK, according to a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 10% of people often feel lonely, a third have a close friend or relative who they think is very lonely, and half think people are getting lonelier in general. Similarly, over the past two decades, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of Americans who say they have no close confidants.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts think that loneliness is bad for human health. They point to studies that show that people with fewer social relationships die earlier on average than people with more social relationships. But does loneliness increase the risk of dying from specific causes? It is important to investigate the relationship between loneliness and cause-specific mortality (death) because, if for example, loneliness increases the risk of dying from alcohol-related causes (heavy drinking causes liver and heart damage, increases the risk of some cancers, contributes to depression, and increases the risk of death by violence or accident), doctors could advise their patients who live alone about safe drinking. But, although loneliness is recognized as both a contributor to and a consequence of alcohol abuse, there have been no large, population-based studies on the association between living alone and alcohol-related mortality. In this population-based study, the researchers estimate the association between living alone (an indicator of a lack of social relationships) and death from alcohol-related causes in Finland for four years before and four years after an alcohol price reduction in 2004 that increased alcohol consumption.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained information on about 80% of all people who died in Finland between 2000 and 2007 from Statistics Finland, which collects official Finnish statistics. During this period, about 18,200 people (two-thirds of whom lived alone) died from underlying alcohol-related causes (for example, liver disease and alcoholic poisoning) or contributory alcohol-related causes (for example, accidents, violence, and cardiovascular disease, with alcohol as a contributing cause). Among married and cohabiting people, the rate of alcohol-related mortality was similar in 2000–2003 and 2004–2007 but for people living alone (particularly those aged 50–69 years) the 2004 alcohol price reduction substantially increased the alcohol-related mortality rate. For liver disease in men, the risk ratio associated with living alone was 3.7 before and 4.9 after the price reduction. That is, between 2000 and 2003, men living alone were 3.7 times more likely to die of liver disease than married or cohabiting men; between 2004 and 2007, they were 4.9 times more likely to die of liver disease. In women, the corresponding risk ratios for liver disease were 1.7 and 2.4, respectively. Living alone was also associated with an increased risk of dying from other alcohol-related diseases and accidents and violence both before and after the price reduction.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in Finland, living alone is associated with an increased risk of alcohol-related mortality. Because of the study design, it is impossible to say whether living alone is a cause or a consequence of alcohol abuse, but the greater increase in alcohol-related deaths (particularly fatal liver disease) among people living alone compared to married and cohabiting people after the alcohol price reduction suggests that people living alone are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of increased alcohol availability. Further research in other countries is now needed to identify whether living alone is a cause or effect of alcohol abuse and to extend these findings to cultures where the pattern of alcohol consumption is different. However, the findings of this natural experiment suggest that living alone should be regarded as a potential risk marker for death from alcohol-related causes.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The Mental Health America Live Your Life Well webpage includes information about how social relationships improve mental and physical health
The Mental Health Foundation (a UK charity) presents the report The Lonely Society?
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has information about alcohol and its effects on health
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website on alcohol and public health that includes information on the health risks of excessive drinking
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about drinking and alcohol, including information on the risks of drinking too much, and personal stories about alcohol problems, including stories from people living alone (My drinks diary shock and I used to drink all day)
MedlinePlus provides links to many other resources on alcohol
PMCID: PMC3176753  PMID: 21949642
13.  Measuring Access to Medicines: A Survey of Prices, Availability and Affordability in Shaanxi Province of China 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70836.
To measure the prices and availability of selected medicines in Shaanxi Province after the implementation of new healthcare reform in 2009.
Data on the prices and availability of 47 medicines were collected from 50 public and 36 private sector medicine outlets in six regions of Shaanxi Province, Western China using a standardized methodology developed by the World Health Organization and Health Action International from September to October 2010. Medicine prices were compared with international reference prices to obtain a median price ratio. Affordability was measured as the number of days’ wages required for the lowest-paid unskilled government worker to purchase standard treatments for common conditions.
The mean availabilities of originator brands and lowest-priced generics were 8.9% and 26.5% in the public sector, and 18.1% and 43.6% in the private sector, respectively. The public sector procured generics and originator brands at median price ratios of 0.75 and 8.49, respectively, while patients paid 0.97 and 10.16. Final patient prices for lowest-priced generics and originator brands in the private sector were about 1.53 and 8.36 times their international retail prices, respectively. Public sector vendors applied high markups of 30.4% to generics, and 19.6% to originator brands. In the private sector, originator brands cost 390.7% more, on average, than their generic equivalents. Generic medicines were priced 17.3% higher in the private sector than the public sector. The lowest-paid government worker would need 0.1 day’s wages to purchase captopril for lowest-priced generics from private sector, while 6.6 days’ wages for losartan. For originator brands, the costs rise to 1.2 days’ wages for salbutamol inhaler and 15.6 days’ wages for omeprazole.
The prices, availability and affordability of medicines in China should be improved to ensure equitable access to basic medical treatments, especially for the poor. This requires multi-faceted interventions, as well as the review and refocusing of policies, regulations and educational interventions.
PMCID: PMC3731290  PMID: 23936471
14.  Crowdsourcing Black Market Prices For Prescription Opioids 
Prescription opioid diversion and abuse are major public health issues in the United States and internationally. Street prices of diverted prescription opioids can provide an indicator of drug availability, demand, and abuse potential, but these data can be difficult to collect. Crowdsourcing is a rapid and cost-effective way to gather information about sales transactions. We sought to determine whether crowdsourcing can provide accurate measurements of the street price of diverted prescription opioid medications.
To assess the possibility of crowdsourcing black market drug price data by cross-validation with law enforcement officer reports.
Using a crowdsourcing research website (StreetRx), we solicited data about the price that site visitors paid for diverted prescription opioid analgesics during the first half of 2012. These results were compared with a survey of law enforcement officers in the Researched Abuse, Diversion, and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS) System, and actual transaction prices on a “dark Internet” marketplace (Silk Road). Geometric means and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for comparing prices per milligram of drug in US dollars. In a secondary analysis, we compared prices per milligram of morphine equivalent using standard equianalgesic dosing conversions.
A total of 954 price reports were obtained from crowdsourcing, 737 from law enforcement, and 147 from the online marketplace. Correlations between the 3 data sources were highly linear, with Spearman rho of 0.93 (P<.001) between crowdsourced and law enforcement, and 0.98 (P<.001) between crowdsourced and online marketplace. On StreetRx, the mean prices per milligram were US$3.29 hydromorphone, US$2.13 buprenorphine, US$1.57 oxymorphone, US$0.97 oxycodone, US$0.96 methadone, US$0.81 hydrocodone, US$0.52 morphine, and US$0.05 tramadol. The only significant difference between data sources was morphine, with a Drug Diversion price of US$0.67/mg (95% CI 0.59-0.75) and a Silk Road price of US$0.42/mg (95% CI 0.37-0.48). Street prices generally followed clinical equianalgesic potency.
Crowdsourced data provide a valid estimate of the street price of diverted prescription opioids. The (ostensibly free) black market was able to accurately predict the relative pharmacologic potency of opioid molecules.
PMCID: PMC3758048  PMID: 23956042
opioids; black market; economics; drug abuse; surveillance; crowdsourcing; Internet; Silk Road; StreetRx; RADARS System; police; law enforcement
15.  Towards equitable access to medicines for the rural poor: analyses of insurance claims reveal rural pharmacy initiative triggers price competition in Kyrgyzstan 
A rural pharmacy initiative (RPI) designed to increase access to medicines in rural Kyrgyzstan created a network of 12 pharmacies using a revolving drug fund mechanism in 12 villages where no pharmacies previously existed. The objective of this study was to determine if the establishment of the RPI resulted in the unforeseen benefit of triggering medicine price competition in pre-existing (non-RPI) private pharmacies located in the region.
We conducted descriptive and multivariate analyses on medicine insurance claims data from Kyrgyzstan's Mandatory Health Insurance Fund for the Jumgal District of Naryn Province from October 2003 to December 2007. We compared average quarterly medicine prices in competitor pharmacies before and after the introduction of the rural pharmacy initiative in October 2004 to determine the RPI impact on price competition.
Descriptive analyses suggest competitors reacted to RPI prices for 21 of 30 (70%) medicines. Competitor medicine prices from the quarter before RPI introduction to the end of the study period decreased for 17 of 30 (57%) medicines, increased for 4 of 30 (13%) medicines, and remained unchanged for 9 of 30 (30%) medicines. Among the 9 competitor medicines with unchanged prices, five initially decreased in price but later reverted back to baseline prices. Multivariate analyses on 19 medicines that met sample size criteria confirm these findings. Fourteen of these 19 (74%) competitor medicines changed significantly in price from the quarter before RPI introduction to the quarter after RPI introduction, with 9 of 19 (47%) decreasing in price and 5 of 19 (26%) increasing in price.
The RPI served as a market driver, spurring competition in medicine prices in competitor pharmacies, even when they were located in different villages. Initiatives designed to increase equitable access to medicines in rural regions of developing and transitional countries should consider the potential to leverage medicine price competition as a means of achieving their goal. Evaluations of interventions to increase rural access to medicines should include impact assessment on both formal and informal pharmaceutical markets.
PMCID: PMC2803474  PMID: 20003422
16.  Comparison of United States and Canadian Glaucoma Medication Costs and Price Change from 2006 to 2013 
Journal of Ophthalmology  2015;2015:547960.
Objective. Compare glaucoma medication costs between the United States (USA) and Canada. Methods. We modelled glaucoma brand name and generic medication annual costs in the USA and Canada based on October 2013 Costco prices and previously reported bottle overfill rates, drops per mL, and wastage adjustment. We also calculated real wholesale price changes from 2006 to 2013 based on the Average Wholesale Price (USA) and the Ontario Drug Benefit Price (Canada). Results. US brand name medication costs were on average 4x more than Canadian medication costs (range: 1.9x–6.9x), averaging a cost difference of $859 annually. US generic costs were on average the same as Canadian costs, though variation exists. US brand name wholesale prices increased from 2006 to 2013 more than Canadian prices (US range: 29%–349%; Canadian range: 9%–16%). US generic wholesale prices increased modestly (US range: −23%–58%), and Canadian wholesale prices decreased (Canadian range: −38%–0%). Conclusions. US brand name glaucoma medications are more expensive than Canadian medications, though generic costs are similar (with some variation). The real prices of brand name medications increased more in the USA than in Canada. Generic price changes were more modest, with real prices actually decreasing in Canada.
PMCID: PMC4397467  PMID: 25922760
17.  Estimating Inpatient Hospital Prices from State Administrative Data and Hospital Financial Reports 
Health Services Research  2013;48(5):1779-1797.
To develop a tool for estimating hospital-specific inpatient prices for major payers.
Data Sources
AHRQ Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Inpatient Databases and complete hospital financial reporting of revenues mandated in 10 states for 2006.
Study Design
Hospital discharge records and hospital financial information were merged to estimate revenue per stay by payer. Estimated prices were validated against other data sources.
Principal Findings
Hospital prices can be reasonably estimated for 10 geographically diverse states. All-payer price-to-charge ratios, an intermediate step in estimating prices, compare favorably to cost-to-charge ratios. Estimated prices also compare well with Medicare, MarketScan private insurance, and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey prices for major payers, given limitations of each dataset.
Public reporting of prices is a consumer resource in making decisions about health care treatment; for self-pay patients, they can provide leverage in negotiating discounts off of charges. Researchers can also use prices to increase understanding of the level and causes of price differentials among geographic areas. Prices by payer expand investigational tools available to study the interaction of inpatient hospital price setting among public and private payers—an important asset as the payer mix changes with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
PMCID: PMC3796114  PMID: 23662642
Inpatient hospital prices; revenue; Medicare; Medicaid; private insurance
18.  Size of clinical trials and Introductory prices of prophylactic vaccine series 
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics  2012;8(8):1066-1070.
Costs of completing the recommended immunization schedule have increased over the last decade. Access to prophylactic vaccines may become limited due to financing obstacles within current delivery systems. Vaccine prices reflect research and development expenses incurred by vaccine manufacturers, including costs associated with evaluating candidate vaccines in human subjects. If the number of subjects in clinical trials is increasing over time and associated with vaccine price, this may help explain increases in prices of vaccine series. We examined whether: (A) the initial public- and private-sector prices for recommended prophylactic vaccine series licensed and recommended in the US increased from 2000–2011, (B) the number of human subjects per licensed vaccine increased during the time period, and (C) the number of human subjects was associated with the initial public–and private–sector prices of the vaccine series. In regression analyses of 13 vaccines, approval year was not significantly associated with the number of human subjects, initial public-sector prices, or initial private-sector prices. While the number of phase II subjects was not significantly associated with prices, the numbers of phase III and combined late phase (phases II + III) subjects were significantly associated with initial public- and private-sector series prices (p < 0.05). The association between number of subjects and initial prices demonstrated diminishing marginal increases in price with increasing numbers of subjects. These findings may help guide the number of subjects required by the FDA in clinical trials, in order to reduce expenses for manufacturers and thereby help mitigate increases in initial vaccine series prices.
PMCID: PMC3551877  PMID: 22854668
vaccines; clinical trials; human subjects; price; research and development
19.  Effects of the National Essential Medicine System in reducing drug prices: an empirical study in four Chinese provinces 
The rapid increase in drug expenditure has become a major source of public criticism in China. In 2009, the National Essential Medicine System (NEMS) was launched in China to control drug prices and improve access to medicines. This study investigated whether and to what extent the prices of essential medicines were reduced after the introduction of NEMS.
Data were obtained from 149 public primary healthcare centers (PHCs) in four Chinese provinces (Shandong, Zhejiang, Anhui and Ningxia) using a facility-based survey. In total, 10,988 essential medicines were investigated. Individual price differences and a price index were used to measure price changes for three different lists: 2009–2010, 2010–2011, and 2009–2011.
In the comparison between 2009 and 2010, a median decrease of 34.4% [95% confidence interval: 30.4%–39.1%] was observed in drug prices and the number of drug sales increased by 1.5%. The higher the retail price in 2010, the more the drug sales increased compared with 2009 (χ2 = 75.9, p < 0.01). The drug revenues in 100 of the 149 surveyed PHCs decreased by an average of 39%. Where the available data allowed price changes for 2009–2011 to be assessed, drug prices were reduced significantly in 2010, but a modest decrease was seen in 2011. The Laspeyres index was less than 100 and the Paasche index was larger than the Laspeyres index in 2010 and 2011, which indicated that the frequently prescribed drugs usually had higher prices and any price reduction was milder.
The introduction of NEMS in PHCs in China led to price reductions in essential medicines. However, more-expensive drugs were preferred in the postreform period. Most PHCs had less drug revenue and could encounter financing dilemmas after the implementation of NEMS. Policy options such as improving the compensation mechanism and rational use of drugs should be further promoted in PHCs.
PMCID: PMC4180053  PMID: 25317336
China; National Essential Medicine System; Access to medicines; Drug price; Price index
20.  Real inflation of journal prices: medical journals, U.S. journals, and Brandon list journals. 
Increases in price during the last twenty years were studied for the journals listed in the 1983 Brandon list, and during the last fifteen years for all medical journals and for U.S. periodicals overall. When compared with increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), prices in all three categories of publications have increased much more rapidly than have prices overall. Libraries whose journal-acquisition budgets increased merely at the same rate as the CPI during the periods examined today can purchase only 50% to 70% of the journals they purchased in 1963. This information should help librarians justify budget increases.
PMCID: PMC227257  PMID: 6652296
21.  Food Price Spikes Are Associated with Increased Malnutrition among Children in Andhra Pradesh, India123 
The Journal of Nutrition  2015;145(8):1942-1949.
Background: Global food prices have risen sharply since 2007. The impact of food price spikes on the risk of malnutrition in children is not well understood.
Objective: We investigated the associations between food price spikes and childhood malnutrition in Andhra Pradesh, one of India’s largest states, with >85 million people. Because wasting (thinness) indicates in most cases a recent and severe process of weight loss that is often associated with acute food shortage, we tested the hypothesis that the escalating prices of rice, legumes, eggs, and other staples of Indian diets significantly increased the risk of wasting (weight-for-height z scores) in children.
Methods: We studied periods before (2006) and directly after (2009) India’s food price spikes with the use of the Young Lives longitudinal cohort of 1918 children in Andhra Pradesh linked to food price data from the National Sample Survey Office. Two-stage least squares instrumental variable models assessed the relation of food price changes to food consumption and wasting prevalence (weight-for-height z scores).
Results: Before the 2007 food price spike, wasting prevalence fell from 19.4% in 2002 to 18.8% in 2006. Coinciding with India’s escalating food prices, wasting increased significantly to 28.0% in 2009. These increases were concentrated among low- (χ2: 21.6, P < 0.001) and middle- (χ2: 25.9, P < 0.001) income groups, but not among high-income groups (χ2: 3.08, P = 0.079). Each 10.0 rupee ($0.170) increase in the price of rice/kg was associated with a drop in child-level rice consumption of 73.0 g/d (β: −7.30; 95% CI: −10.5, −3.90). Correspondingly, lower rice consumption was significantly associated with lower weight-for-height z scores (i.e., wasting) by 0.005 (95% CI: 0.001, 0.008), as seen with most other food categories.
Conclusion: Rising food prices were associated with an increased risk of malnutrition among children in India. Policies to help ensure the affordability of food in the context of economic growth are likely critical for promoting children’s nutrition.
PMCID: PMC4516769  PMID: 26136589
food price spikes; food consumption; weight-for-height z scores; child nutrition; India
22.  Utilization, Spending, and Price Trends for Short- and Long-Acting Beta-Agonists and Inhaled Corticosteroids in the Medicaid Program, 1991–2010 
American Health & Drug Benefits  2011;4(3):140-149.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that afflicts millions of people and accounts for substantial utilization of healthcare resources in most industrialized countries, including in the United States. However, the exact cost and utilization of anti-asthma medications in Medicaid in the past 2 decades have not been well studied. Considering the safety issues surrounding the long-acting beta-agonists, guideline updates, and the increase in asthma prevalence, understanding anti-asthma medication prescribing trends is important to payers and patients.
The purpose of this study was to analyze the utilization and spending trends for anti-asthmatic agents in the US Medicaid program over the past 2 decades.
This study was based on a retrospective, descriptive analysis of trends in utilization of and spending on anti-asthma medications, including short-acting beta-agonists, inhaled corticosteroids, long-acting beta-agonists, and inhaled corticosteroid/long-acting beta-agonist combinations. Quarterly utilization and expenditure data were obtained from the national Medicaid pharmacy files provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from quarter 1 of 1991 through quarter 2 of 2010. Average reimbursement per prescription was calculated each quarter as a proxy for drug price.
The total number of prescriptions for the studied anti-asthma medications rose from 8.9 million in 1991 to 15.6 million in 2009, peaking at 20.8 million in 2005, the year before Medicare and Medicaid dual-eligible beneficiaries were moved to Medicare Part D. From 1991 to 2009, Medicaid spending on anti-asthma medications overall rose from $180.7 million to $1.3 billion, and spending on inhaled corticosteroid/long-acting beta-agonist combinations rose from $52.8 million in 2001—their first year on the market—to $411.7 million in 2009. The average price per prescription has risen in all the anti-asthma drug classes: overall, spending per prescription has increased 4-fold between 1991 and 2009, significantly faster than the consumer price index (57.5%) over the same period. In quarter 2 of 2010, Medicaid spent more on the combination medication fluticasone-salmeterol—$60 million—than on any other anti-asthma medication.
Anti-asthma medications are a major and growing expense for state Medicaid programs and can be expected to be the same for Medicare Part D in the future. Increased disease prevalence has in part contributed to the rise in pharmacotherapy cost. Nevertheless, drug therapy is crucial for managing asthma and asthma exacerbations.
PMCID: PMC4105711  PMID: 25126346
23.  Costs and effects of paliperidone extended release compared with alternative oral antipsychotic agents in patients with schizophrenia in Greece: A cost effectiveness study 
To compare the costs and effects of paliperidone extended release (ER), a new pharmaceutical treatment for the management of schizophrenia, with the most frequently prescribed oral treatments in Greece (namely risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, aripiprazole and ziprasidone) over a 1-year time period.
A decision tree was developed and tailored to the specific circumstances of the Greek healthcare system. Therapeutic effectiveness was defined as the annual number of stable days and the clinical data was collected from international clinical trials and published sources. The study population was patients who suffer from schizophrenia with acute exacerbation. During a consensus panel of 10 psychiatrists and 6 health economists, data were collected on the clinical practice and medical resource utilisation. Unit costs were derived from public sources and official reimbursement tariffs. For the comparators official retail prices were used. Since a price had not yet been granted for paliperidone ER at the time of the study, the conservative assumption of including the average of the highest targeted European prices was used, overestimating the price of paliperidone ER in Greece. The study was conducted from the perspective of the National Healthcare System.
The data indicate that paliperidone ER might offer an increased number of stable days (272.5 compared to 272.2 for olanzapine, 265.5 f risperidone, 260.7 for quetiapine, 260.5 for ziprasidone and 258.6 for aripiprazole) with a lower cost compared to the other therapies examined (€7,030 compared to €7,034 for olanzapine, €7,082 for risperidone, €8,321 for quetiapine, €7,713 for ziprasidone and €7,807 for aripiprazole). During the sensitivity analysis, a ± 10% change in the duration and frequency of relapses and the economic parameters did not lead to significant changes in the results.
Treatment with paliperidone ER can lead to lower total cost and higher number of stable days in most of the cases examined.
PMCID: PMC2553072  PMID: 18755025
24.  Impact of medicine-related information on medicine purchase and use by literate consumers 
Indian Journal of Pharmacology  2014;46(4):420-424.
To measure impact of information, education, and communication intervention (IEC) on rational medicine use, purchase, and stocking behavior.
Materials and Methods:
This was a pre- and post-design, interventional study. Base data were collected in first visit, using pre tested questionnaire from 500 respondents, who were of either gender, English speaking, at least graduates, permanent residents, and willing to participate. IEC was framed based on problems identified from this data. First intervention was handouts distributed in the second visit, containing information on cost saving in medicine purchase. Second intervention was a lecture session on medicine prices, rational use of medicines, and tips on saving on medicine purchase. Five articles about medicine use and price differences were published in the local newspaper, over 10 days, formed third intervention. After 1 month, post-intervention data was collected using same instrument with some additional questions. Results were analyzed by Chi-square test using Graph Pad prism Version 3.0.
Awareness about price variation, self-medication, expiry period, generic and brand quality increased post-intervention. Attitudes toward new, costly, brands, injections, sharing and reusing old prescriptions changed post-intervention. Behavioral changes in stocking habits, adherence to doctors’ advice, getting cash memo, comparing prices, reading labels, were seen post-intervention.
People carry false notions about medicines which influence their use and habits. This intervention successfully changed behavior and could bring awareness on many aspects of medicine use.
PMCID: PMC4118537  PMID: 25097282
Compliance; cost comparison; generic verses brand; media influence; medicine storage
25.  The price of a drink: levels of consumption and price paid per unit of alcohol by Edinburgh's ill drinkers with a comparison to wider alcohol sales in Scotland 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2011;106(4):729-736.
To compare alcohol purchasing and consumption by ill drinkers in Edinburgh with wider alcohol sales in Scotland.
Two hospitals in Edinburgh in 2008/09.
A total of 377 patients with serious alcohol problems; two-thirds were in-patients with medical, surgical or psychiatric problems due to alcohol; one-third were out-patients.
Last week's or typical weekly consumption of alcohol: type, brand, units (1 UK unit 8 g ethanol), purchase place and price.
Patients consumed mean 197.7 UK units/week. The mean price paid per unit was £0.43 (lowest £0.09/unit) (£1 = 1.6 US$ or 1.2€), which is below the mean unit price, £0.71 paid in Scotland in 2008. Of units consumed, 70.3% were sold at or below £0.40/unit (mid-range of price models proposed for minimum pricing legislation by the Scottish Government), and 83% at or below £0.50/unit proposed by the Chief Medical Officer of England. The lower the price paid per unit, the more units a patient consumed. A continuous increase in unit price from lower to higher social status, ranked according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (based on postcode), was not seen; patients residing in postcodes in the mid-quintile paid the highest price per unit. Cheapness was quoted commonly as a reason for beverage choice; ciders, especially ‘white’ cider, and vodka were, at off-sales, cheapest per unit. Stealing alcohol or drinking alcohol substitutes was only very rarely reported.
Because patients with serious alcohol problems tend to purchase very cheap alcohol, elimination of the cheapest sales by minimum price or other legislation might reduce their consumption. It is unknown whether proposed price legislation in Scotland will encourage patients with serious alcohol problems to start stealing alcohol or drinking substitutes or will reduce the recruitment of new drinkers with serious alcohol problems and produce predicted longer-term gains in health and social wellbeing.
PMCID: PMC3085000  PMID: 21134019
Alcohol; legislation policy; minimum pricing; off-sales; policy; price; price/unit; purchase price; supermarket

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