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Humana and HRP Initiative to Launch BioImage Study in South Florida

Unprecedented study aims to find novel means to identify people at risk for heart attacks


Wednesday, November 19, 2008 10:00 am EST



Public Company Information:


MIRAMAR, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) and BG Medicine Inc., representing the HRP Initiative, have launched a three-year landmark medical research study called the BioImage study. The study aims to develop new blood or imaging tests that can be used to identify individuals at very high risk for a first heart attack or stroke.

Selected Humana health plan members in South Florida can volunteer for this important study.

“The BioImage study may hold the key to developing new treatments for these first cardiovascular events and their often devastating consequences,” said BG Medicine President and CEO Dr. Pieter Muntendam.

The BioImage study was officially launched Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the former site of North Ridge Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.

The majority of heart attacks are due to what is known as “vulnerable” plaque, small areas of soft plaque in arteries that can rupture and lead to a blood clot, resulting in a stroke or heart attack.

Conventional medical tests are not capable of detecting this dangerous kind of plaque. Although treatments using existing drugs or new drugs in development are likely to be very effective, no treatment is possible until one can reliably find individuals before their first event.

Contrary to common beliefs, the majority of heart attacks occur in individuals who, if they had been evaluated by a physician the day before their first heart attack, would have been considered at low or medium risk, and only in rare cases, eligible for treatment.

Coronary heart disease is America’s No. 1 killer and stroke is the third-leading cause of death. Only novel cost-effective means to screen for those at very high risk for these conditions can create a new clinical approach based on detection and treatment of people with these plaques.

“If successful, this will have a much greater impact on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality than risk-factor management can ever have,” said Dr. Muntendam. “The personal and societal burden of heart disease is larger than that of any other condition, while the condition is much more amenable to treatment than most other serious medical conditions. This missing link has been our ability to find these individuals in society. I applaud the involvement of Humana and the Humana members who volunteer for this study to solve this important problem.”

“We’re bringing this landmark study to the people of South Florida, giving our members the chance to contribute to the future of medicine and health,” said Humana Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Jonathan Lord.

Approximately 49,000 South Florida Humana members between the ages of 55 and 80 are being notified that they are eligible to volunteer for this study. The goal is to recruit and enroll up to 5,300 individuals in the BioImage study over a nine-month period.

“The BioImage study is a great example of innovative medical research,” said Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp. “We’re pleased that Florida has been selected by Humana as one of only three states to participate in a project to find new ways to identify people who have a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.”

Participation in the BioImage study is strictly voluntary. The BioImage study will utilize a clinic, located at the former North Ridge Medical Center site in Southeast Broward County, to draw the study participants’ blood; take their physical measurements, including height, weight, blood pressure, body temperature, and waist and hip circumference; and, in some cases, to use a number of ways to perform non-invasive images of the heart and major blood vessels.

At today’s study launch event in Fort Lauderdale, Hall of Fame football coach Don Shula, a Humana spokesman, and GRAMMY Award-winning singer and composer Willy Chirino, Humana’s Florida Hispanic market spokesman, were among those to go through the mobile unit and clinic to experience the BioImage study investigations.

Other political, community and medical leaders scheduled to attend today’s public launch in South Florida of the Humana-BG Medicine BioImage study included Florida Surgeon General Ana M.Viamonte-Ros, Broward County Mayor Lois Wexler, Humana Florida Senior Products CEO Michael Seltzer and Humana Vice President of Research and Development Carol McCall.

The BioImage study is sponsored by the High-Risk Plaque (HRP) Initiative, a broad-based industry collaboration brought together by BG Medicine, and it includes companies such as Merck, AstraZeneca, Philips, Abbott and Takeda. These groups have come together to develop cost-effective means to reliably predict heart attacks two to three years before they occur. Humana has partnered with BG Medicine to help in achieving this goal.

The BioImage study recently completed recruitment in Chicago and plans to move to its final stop in Louisville after South Florida recruitment for the study is complete.

About Humana

Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is one of the nation’s largest publicly traded health and supplemental benefits companies, with approximately 11.7 million medical members. Humana is a full-service benefits solutions company, offering a wide array of health and supplementary benefit plans for employer groups, government programs and individuals.

Over its 47-year history, Humana has consistently seized opportunities to meet changing customer needs. Today, the company is a leader in consumer engagement, providing guidance that leads to lower costs and a better health plan experience throughout its diversified customer portfolio.

Humana is Florida’s largest Medicare health benefits company with nearly half a million members statewide, and one of Florida’s leading health benefits companies with more than 365,000 commercial health plan members statewide.

Humana is being paid for its services in the BioImage study and holds a minority equity interest in BG Medicine. The Personal Health Information of Humana members that participate in the BioImage study will be protected. More information regarding Humana is available to investors via the Investor Relations page of the company’s Web site at www.humana.com.

For more information on the BioImage study, visit the Web site at www.bioimagestudy.com.


Humana Corporate Communications
Mitch Lubitz, 813-287-6180 or 813-732-0386 (Cell)

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