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CVS sponsors effort to fight lung cancer in women
May 13th, 2014
NEW YORK – CVS Caremark Corp. is sponsoring a new women's health initiative from the American Lung Association called Lung Force.
At the Lung Force inaugural reception Monday evening in New York: Actress Valerie Harper, CVS' Helena Foulkes and singer Kellie Pickler.
Unveiled in New York on Tuesday, Lung Force aims to make lung cancer in women a public health priority, drive policy change and boost research funding.
According to the association's inaugural Women's Lung Health Barometer, a poll of more than 1,000 adult women that measures their knowledge and perceptions about lung cancer, women's awareness of the impact of lung cancer is low, even though the disease is the leading cancer killer of women.
The barometer found that only 1% of women cited lung cancer as a cancer that is top-of-mind for them. More than 108,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year and, on average, less than half will be alive next year, according to the American Lung Association.
CVS Caremark is the national presenting sponsor of Lung Force and will support the initiative through an in-store promotion during June. CVS/pharmacy customers will be able to contribute to Lung Force at checkout, with all proceeds going to support the initiative.
"We are excited to be part of Lung Force and look forward to spreading the word about this movement," CVS/pharmacy president Helena Foulkes said in a statement. "This partnership aligns with our commitment to help our customers on the path to better health. We believe our customers and employees will raise their voices and rally behind this important women’s health issue."
In February, CVS Caremark announced that it plans to end sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores nationwide by Oct. 1. The move makes CVS/pharmacy the first national drug chain to do so. CVS has estimated that it will lose about $2 billion annually in sales from tobacco shoppers. Larry Merlo, president and chief executive officer of CVS Caremark, said in announcing the plan that "the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose" of promoting healthy living.
CVS/pharmacy president Helena Foulkes said at the Lung Force event in New York on Tuesday that the company is working on a major smoking cessation program.
Foulkes said in an interview Tuesday at the Lung Force launch in New York City that CVS is currently working on the details of a major smoking cessation program, which the company mentioned when it announced the plan to remove tobacco products from its stores.
"For us it's a natural extension, from getting out of the [tobacco] business and taking it one step further and finding those seven out of 10 smokers who we know want to quit," she explained. "One of the things we found during our announcement was that smokers were celebrating our decision as well, because so many of them want to quit. So what we said to ourselves was, how do we leverage our 26,000 pharmacists and 5,000 nurse practitioners to really make a difference? We have 5 million people a day walking into our stores."
The American Lung Association noted that, according to the Women's Lung Health Barometer, 78% of women aren't aware that lung cancer has killed more women than breast cancer since 1987. The association also pointed out that anyone can get lung cancer, even those who aren't among the 86% of women who don't smoke; two-thirds of lung cancer cases are in those who have never smoked or have quit smoking.
Such findings highlight the lack of awareness and the need for Lung Force, according to the association.
"Together, we have to make lung cancer in women a public health priority and change our thinking about this disease. We hope that with increased awareness and education, women will join the fight against lung cancer and for lung health," stated Harold Wimmer, national president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association. "We are proud to introduce Lung Force and honored to have CVS Caremark as a partner in this new movement that unites women to stand together against lung cancer."
As part of the launch of Lung Force and the inaugural Lung Force Turquoise Takeover during National Women's Lung Health Week, running May 11 to 17, more than 90 landmarks — including New York's Niagara Falls and San Francisco's Big "G" in Ghirardelli Square — will "turn turquoise" in support of women's lung health. In addition, more than 50 proclamations will be issued by government officials.
Lung Force also is drawing key support from celebrities, including actress and author Valerie Harper and country music singer Kellie Pickler, who are helping to inaugurate the initiative Tuesday in New York.
Both Harper and Pickler have had experiences with lung cancer that motivated them to join Lung Force. Harper, widely known from television as Rhoda Morgenstern in the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Rhoda", was diagnosed in 2009 with non-small cell lung cancer, and after her tumor was removed, went back to normal life. In 2013, she began to experience strange symptoms that were discovered to be an unusual metastasis of her lung cancer. Given as few as three months to live, Harper worked on her treatment and went on living her life and, over a year later, is still hard at work, guest starring on television shows and sharing her cancer experience with millions of Americans. Last week, she testified in front of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Aging about cancer and called for increased investment in cancer research funding.
"I feel fortunate that I have been able to defy the odds of this challenging disease given that my mother died of lung cancer although, like me, she never smoked," Harper said in a statement. "And while I have my newfound strength and the opportunity, I want to make lung cancer a disease that people care about and act on. Whether that's educating key decision makers or working for advances in early detection, I am committed to seeing Lung Force succeed in extending and saving women's lives."
Pickler, when she was 15, lost her grandmother to lung cancer just a day after she was diagnosed. "One of the hardest things I've had to experience was losing my grandmother to lung cancer," Pickler stated. "Not only was she a loving, strong and gracious person, she was also the woman that I called mom. I support Lung Force in the hope that others won't have to lose such amazing women in their lives."
Pickler appears alongside singer Jewel in the first Lung Force public service announcement, which calls on women to understand lung cancer's impact, share what they know with others and join the effort at LungForce.org.