News in Brief: Week of June 27-July 1

June 29, 2011 05:55 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

New Online Directory Helps Patients Compare Health Care Quality, Cost

On June 28, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, or RWJF, launched a free online directory( designed to help patients find information about the quality and cost of health care in their communities.

According to a press release( from the RWJF, users scroll their curser over a U.S. map to find web-based resources that compare the care provided by local hospitals and physicians based on recommended tests and treatments, outcomes, overall cost of care and patients' experiences.

The new directory, "Comparing Health Care Quality: A National Directory," links to reports in 46 states; reports are unavailable for Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii and Idaho.

Seniors Reaching Prescription Drug 'Donut Hole' Are Getting Help

Nearly 500,000 people with Medicare Part D who reached the gap in their prescription drug coverage known as the "donut hole" have received an automatic 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription medications as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

According to CMS, Medicare beneficiaries have benefited from the 50 percent discount in the first five months of 2011. These beneficiaries saved more than $260 million overall.

In May, the total number of beneficiaries who received the discount jumped by 76 percent and the dollar amount of savings climbed by 56 percent, a clear indication that the number of beneficiaries benefiting from the discount continues to grow, said CMS. Based on data from past years, the agency now expects that as many as 4 million additional beneficiaries will fall into the coverage gap this year and will benefit from the discounts.

Odor Prompts Medication Recalls

Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. is recalling one lot of 3-milligram tablets of risperidone being marketed under the trade name Risperdal and one lot of 2-milligram generic risperidone tablets. The recalls stem from consumer reports of an uncharacteristic odor thought to be caused by trace amounts of 2,4,6 tribromoanisole, or TBA, which is a byproduct of a chemical preservative applied to wooden pallets.

The manufacturer said in a June 17 news release( that there have been no serious adverse events reported with risperidone and Risperdal because of the presence of TBA, and patients should not stop taking their medication. Patients who experience an uncharacteristic odor with either product should return the medication to their pharmacist.

In addition, McNeil Consumer Healthcare is recalling one lot -- ABA619 -- of 225-count bottles of Tylenol Extra Strength Tablets because of odor reports linked to TBA.

The recall affects 60,912 bottles manufactured in 2009. McNeil said the recall is being made as a precaution, and the risk of serious adverse medical events is remote. However, the manufacturer said TBA has been associated with temporary gastrointestinal symptoms.

Consumers who have product from the recalled lot should stop using the tablets and contact McNeil( for instructions about receiving a refund or product coupon. Consumers who have medical concerns or questions should contact their physicians.

Adverse reactions also may be reported to the FDA's MedWatch program(

AAMC Upgrades Health Education Resource Publication Service

The Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, has announced that it has updated its MedEdPORTAL(, the association's free, peer-reviewed publication service for health education resources.

According to a notice( in AAMC Reporter, MedEdPORTAL was re-engineered to maximize user experience, streamline publication processes and lay the technical foundation for upcoming expansion into content development and continuing education, as well as performance improvement.

The new structure of the website is designed to accommodate partnerships with allied health professions to drive interprofessionalism and innovation in health education, said the AAMC.

New Medical School to Focus on Diverse Charter Class

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, or CMSRU, in Camden, N.J., has received the go-ahead to recruit its first medical student class for fall 2012.

According to a June 9 news release(, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, or LCME, has given the medical school preliminary accreditation, the third step in a five-step accreditation process. The preliminary accreditation means that the medical school has met more than 130 LCME standards.

The school plans to work to address physician shortages in New Jersey and will focus on underrepresented populations as it begins its admissions process.

"We are looking to build a diverse student body not only on the basis of race and ethnicity, but also diversity of socioeconomic and cultural background," said founding Dean Paul Katz, M.D., in the news release. "We are looking for students who will resonate with our mission and core values -- who are committed to civic responsibility and patient advocacy."