News in Brief: Week of Dec. 5-9

December 07, 2011 05:05 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

FDA Evaluating Reports of Serious Bleeding Linked to Pradaxa

The FDA is looking into reports that patients taking the anticoagulant dabigatran etexilate mesylate, or Pradaxa, are having serious bleeding events, but it is not suggesting patients stop taking the drug.

The FDA said in a safety communication( that it is working to determine whether the reports are occurring more commonly than expected, but the agency cautioned health care professionals not to react hastily. The FDA said that at this time, it recommends following the approved drug label.

"Patients with (atrial fibrillation) should not stop taking Pradaxa without talking to their health care professional," said the agency. "Stopping use of blood-thinning medications can increase their risk of stroke. Strokes can lead to permanent disability and death."

Sneak a Peek at 2012 Update of ICD-10-CM

The National Center for Health Statistics has posted the 2012 update( of the ICD-10-CM codes set for outpatient diagnosis coding.

Although the codes are not currently valid, physicians and their practices could find a preview of the codes set useful for reference and training purposes as they plan for the transition to this version, which goes into effect on Oct. 1, 2013.

More Primary Care Physicians, Health Professionals Adopting EHRs

More than 100,000 primary care physicians and other primary care health professionals have made a commitment to work with their local regional extension centers, or RECs, to adopt electronic health records, or EHRs, and to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs.

HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology says the commitment made by the 100,000 primary care physicians and other primary care professionals represents "a major step toward broader and more meaningful use" of health information technology.

The federal government created RECs as part of the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 to provide guidance and resources to eligible physicians and other professionals as they make the transition from paper records to certified EHRs. The RECs, which are made up of local nonprofits nationwide, mostly help primary care physicians and other health professionals in small rural practices qualify for payments from federal incentive programs.

DUI Rate Influenced by Parental Example

Parents who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs are putting their children at a greater risk than previously thought.

According to a report( from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, adolescents with a parent who drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol are considerably more likely to do the same.

The report concluded that, "18.3 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds living with a mother who drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol did the same," versus just less than 11 percent whose mothers had not driven under the influence. For fathers who drove under the influence, the news was worse -- 21.4 percent of their children did so, while only 8.4 percent of adolescents living with a father who did not drive under the influence chose to do so.

"Parents play a key role in preventing drunk and drugged driving, beginning with setting a good example," SAMHSA Administrator Pam Hyde said in a news release( "Parents who drink, or drug, and drive not only put their lives and the lives of others at immediate risk, but increase the likelihood that their children will follow down this destructive path."

FDA: 'Homeopathic' HCG Weight-loss Drugs Illegal

It soon may be a crime to sell or manufacture "homeopathic" human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, weight-loss drugs.

HCG has been approved by the FDA to treat female infertility but not weight loss. It is also not approved for OTC sale for any purpose. For this reason, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have issued seven letters to companies warning each that it is "selling illegal homeopathic HCG weight-loss drugs that have not been approved and that make unsupported claims."

According to the FDA(, HCG drugs generally are marketed to be used in conjunction with an extremely low-calorie diet. The agency, however, pointed out that there "is no substantial evidence that (HCG) increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or 'normal' distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets."

"These products are marketed with incredible claims and people think that if they're losing weight, HCG must be working," said Elizabeth Miller, acting director of FDA's Division of Non-Prescription Drugs and Health Fraud, in an FDA consumer update. "But the data simply (do) not support this; any loss is from severe calorie restriction. Not from the HCG."

The FDA also points out that the suggested 500-calorie per day diet is "hazardous," increasing the risk for side effects, such as gallstones and irregular heartbeat.

Physicians Share Health IT Experiences Via New Social Media Site

Physicians willing to share their insights and experiences with transitioning to health information technology, or health IT, can turn to a recently launched social media site called Doctors Helping Doctors Transform Health Care(

The nonprofit initiative launched Dec. 1 and gives physicians a place to share videos, audios, stories and blog posts about why they implemented health IT, the initial challenges they faced, the strategies they used to deal with those challenges, and the impact health IT has had on their practices and organizations.

Founders of the site aim to provide a communication venue for physicians that will support the transformation of the U.S. health care system by improving the quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of care. Steven Waldren, M.D., director of the AAFP's Center for Health IT, is a member of the site's advisory board.

One in Five Individuals With HIV Infection Unaware of Status, Says CDC

As the United States marked World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the CDC released statistics showing that about 1.2 million people are living with HIV infection in this country. But about 240,000 of those with HIV infection do not know they are infected, making it more likely they will infect others because they can spread the virus without realizing it, according to the CDC(

The agency notes that only 28 percent of people with HIV infection are receiving the care needed to effectively manage the disease and keep the virus under control. "Only 45 percent of people with HIV getting medical care received prevention counseling from their health care providers in the past year," said the agency.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has directed HHS( to provide about $50 million in new funding for the nation's AIDS Drug Assistance Programs to increase access to HIV and AIDS services.