News in Brief: Week of Aug. 8-12

August 10, 2011 06:00 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

McNeil Offers Resources for Safe Use of Acetaminophen in Children

McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the manufacturer of Tylenol, has developed resources intended to reduce medication errors and make OTC children's medications that contain acetaminophen safer to use.

The resources include a June 21 letter to health care professionals( that explains an industry-wide transition to a single concentration of 160mg/5mL for all pediatric OTC single-ingredient liquid acetaminophen products.

Other resources include a dosing chart( based on weight and age, a handout( to ensure that parents and caregivers give children the proper dose of medication, and answers to frequently asked questions(

McNeil's actions are consistent with recommendations made May 17-18 during a joint meeting( of the FDA's Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and its Pediatric Advisory Committee.

CMS Launches New Online Tools to Help With Health Care Decisions

CMS has unveiled a new set of online tools and enhancements to help patients and their caregivers make more informed choices about their health care and, thus, improve the quality of care in physician offices, hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings in the United States.

The new resources include an enhanced quality improvement organization(, or QIO, program in which QIOs provide technical assistance and resources to physicians and other health care providers across the country to help them change how care is delivered in physician offices, hospitals and across care settings.

QIOs are private and mostly nonprofit organizations that are composed mainly of physicians and other health care professionals who are trained to review medical care. These professionals help beneficiaries with complaints about quality of care and implement improvements in the quality of care available throughout the spectrum of care.

Other new tools include a Quality Care Finder( to provide consumers with one online destination to access all of Medicare's comparison information on hospitals, nursing homes and plans and an updated Hospital Compare( website that includes data on such topics as how well hospitals protect outpatients from surgical infections and whether surgery patients were given an antibiotic at the right time to prevent infection.

HHS Awards Additional Funds to Community Health Centers

HHS has awarded $28.8 million to 67 community health centers throughout the country to establish new health service delivery sites to care for an additional 286,000 patients. The funds, which were awarded as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will support new full-time delivery sites that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care services, according to HHS(

"We are making an investment in the health of people and the health of our communities," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in announcing the grant awards. "These awards demonstrate a commitment to improving and expanding access to quality health care for local communities. We are removing barriers that stand in the way of affordable and accessible primary health services."

Eligible applicants include public or nonprofit private entities, including tribal, faith-based and community-based organizations who meet health center funding requirements. In addition to organizations applying for the first time, current Health Resources and Services Administration grantees can apply, as well. Community health centers currently operate in more than 8,000 locations and serve more than 20 million patients.

CMS Encourages Those Eligible for Low-income Assistance Program to Apply

According to CMS estimates(, as many as 2 million eligible Medicare beneficiaries are not enrolled in a low-income medication assistance program that provides help with the purchase of generic and brand-name medications. The program, known as the Medicare Low-Income Subsidy Program or "Extra Help," ensures eligible beneficiaries pay no more than $2.50 for generic drugs and $6.30 for each brand-name prescription drug.

The federal government has made changes to the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, making it easier for low-income Medicare beneficiaries to qualify. Medicare beneficiaries' incomes must be less than $16,335 a year or $22,065 for married couples and have resources limited to $12,640 or $25,260 for married couples. Resources include bank accounts, stocks and bonds and do not include a beneficiary's house, car or life insurance policy.

There is no cost to apply for the Extra Help program. Medicare beneficiaries, family members, trusted counselors or caregivers can apply online( in English or Spanish. Beneficiaries also can call the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 and ask for the application for Medicare's Part D Extra Help.