Edition: July 2001 - Vol 9 Number 07
Article#: 1002
Author: Mark Thill

Two items in this month's issue speaks to opportunities for reps that are worth pursuing.

The first are the most recent guidelines on cholesterol from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Front-page news in many cities, the new, stricter guidelines will refocus the public's attention on the potential health-related dangers of cholesterol.

At the core of the guidelines lies the directive for increased testing of people of all ages. They call for primary testing not just for total cholesterol and HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or the so-called ''good'' cholesterol), but for LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and triglycerides as well. The guidelines advise healthy adults to have a lipoprotein analysis once every five years.

They also recommend a more aggressive posture toward HDL. They define a low HDL as being less than 40 mg/dL. (Previously, a low HDL was less than 35 mg/dL.) The change reflects new findings about the significance of a low HDL, and the strong link between a low HDL and an increased risk of heart disease. An HDL level of 60 mg/dL or more is considered protective against heart disease.

NHLBI expects the guidelines not only to lead to increased testing, but to an increase in the number of people taking cholesterol-lowering drugs – from about 13 million today to as many as 36 million. And such drugs demand that those who take them be tested for liver toxicity, a rare side effect.

As Quality America's Sheila Dunn points out in this month's story on the cholesterol guidelines, the guidelines give reps an opportunity to share important clinical information with physicians and office staff members, thus enhancing the value they bring to the practice.

It's an opportunity for the taking.

The second such opportunity has to do with flu vaccine. In its report to Congress, the General Accounting Office called for manufacturers, distributors and others to educate providers about the expanded flu vaccine season and about the need to inoculate the highest-risk people first, just in case another vaccine shortage should occur.

Another opportunity for the taking.

In both cases, the potential upside is enormous. It is the opportunity to share important news with your clinical customers. And the downside? The downside is not taking advantage of them.