This roundup includes the following news briefs:
Family physicians now have until Nov. 8 to submit requests for hardship exemptions from the 2011 Medicare electronic prescribing, or eRX, incentive program. That is one week from the last extension to Nov. 1.
The eRX program(www.cms.gov) provides rewards for physicians who sent at least 10 patient prescriptions electronically in the first six months of 2011 and penalizes physicians who did not e-prescribe. Physicians can ask for an exemption from the penalties for a variety of reasons, including lack of access to high-speed Internet in rural areas; lack of access to pharmacies that can accommodate e-prescribing; local, state or federal laws that prohibit e-prescribing; limitations in the number or type of prescriptions written; and participation in other CMS incentive programs.
CMS has issued a Medicare physician payment final rule for the 2012 calendar year that reflects a 27.4 percent payment cut called for by the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula. This reduction is less than the 29.5 percent reduction CMS projected for the Medicare payment rate back in March because the growth in Medicare costs was lower than expected.
Also as a part of the final rule, CMS announced(www.cms.gov) it is expanding its potentially misvalued code initiative. This helps ensure that Medicare is paying for physician services accurately, said the agency.
As part of this effort, CMS is focusing on codes billed by physicians in each specialty that result in the highest Medicare expenditures under the Medicare physician fee schedule. In years past, CMS targeted specific codes for review that may have affected a few procedural specialties, such as cardiology, radiology or nuclear medicine. But, according to Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator and director for CMS, "We believe strong efforts are needed to evaluate Medicare's fee schedule to ensure that it is paying accurately and to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries continue to have access to vital services."
On October 25, Eli Lilly and Co. announced the voluntary withdrawal of Xigris(www.fda.gov), or activated drotecogin alfa, a drug used to treat severe sepsis, from worldwide markets. The drug has been in use for about 10 years and is a recombinant form of human activated protein C. In a recent study, Xigris did not show any survival benefits for patients when compared with a placebo.
The FDA recommends physicians no longer prescribe Xigris for the treatment of severe sepsis in new patients and that they stop treatment with current patients on the drug. Xigris also should be returned to suppliers.
To report adverse effects of Xigris, contact MedWatch(www.fda.gov), the FDA's Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.