News in Brief: Week of Jan. 2-6

January 05, 2012 05:15 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

Similarity in Drug Names Poses Serious Injury Risk, Says FDA

The FDA is alerting( pharmacists and other health care professionals of a potential for injury due to confusion between an FDA-approved eye medication -- difluprednate ophthalmic emulsion, which is sold as Durezol -- and the unapproved prescription topical wart remover salicylic acid, which is sold as Durasal.

The agency said there has been one report of serious injury when a pharmacist mistakenly gave an eye surgery patient the salicylic acid-containing wart remover instead of the prescribed eye drops.

The FDA said several other cases have been reported that involved confusion between the two drugs, while complaints also have been received from health care professionals concerning the similarity between the names of the drugs.

As part of the FDA drug approval process, drugs' proprietary names are screened for similarities to the names of other products on the market, but because Durasal did not undergo the drug approval process, the agency was not able to evaluate Durasal for potential name confusion.

Elorac Inc., which distributes Durasal, to date has not responded to the FDA's inquiry into removing this unapproved product from the marketplace. The company also has not recalled the product in response to the agency's inquiry regarding the risk to patients.

Adverse effects associated with misuse of the two drugs can be reported to MedWatch(, the FDA's Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.

FDA Votes to Expand Prevnar 13 Indication

The 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or PCV13, which is marketed as Prevnar 13, has received an expanded age indication from the FDA. The agency announced( on Dec. 30 that it has approved the use of PCV13 for "people ages 50 years and older to prevent pneumonia and invasive disease caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae."

Use of PCV13 in this expanded age group most likely will be recommended by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, sometime in 2012, according to family physician and ACIP member Doug Campos-Outcalt, M.D., M.P.A., of Phoenix.

PCMH, Physician-led Networks Generate Savings for N.C. Medicaid Program

North Carolina's Medicaid program saved nearly $1 billion in health care costs from 2007 to 2010 by relying on physician-led networks and patient-centered medical homes, or PCMHs, to deliver care to most of the state's Medicaid beneficiaries. That's according to a study conducted by Milliman Inc., a San Diego-based actuarial firm.

The state's Department of Health and Human Services created an entity known as Community Care of North Carolina(, or CCNC, in 1998 to provide and manage care for the state's Medicaid recipients. Based on physician-led networks and PCMHs, CCNC has expanded throughout the state since its inception. It now encompasses 14 networks, 4,500 primary care physicians and more than 1,400 medical homes.

By enrolling its recipients in CCNC medical homes, North Carolina's Medicaid program saved $984 million in fiscal years, or FYs, 2007-10, according to the study. During 2009 and 2010 alone, the Medicaid program saved $677 million.

The study also found that cost savings increased as the state program enrolled more Medicaid beneficiaries into CCNC medical homes, jumping from $103 million saved on a monthly average of 983,356 beneficiaries (1.9 percent savings) in FY 2007 to $382 million saved on 1,253,292 beneficiaries (5.8 percent savings) in FY 2010.

HHS Awards Bonuses for State Medicaid, CHIP Program Expansions

HHS is awarding more than $296 million to states( that have expanded health care coverage for children through their Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Programs, or CHIPs.

The funds, provided as part of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, are awarded based on certain criteria. To qualify, states must surpass a specified Medicaid enrollment target while also adopting procedures that make it easier for children to enroll and retain coverage through Medicaid and CHIP, according to an HHS press release(

Known as performance bonus payments, the funds are intended to help states offset the costs of enrolling lower-income children in Medicaid. At the same time, ensuring that states streamline their enrollment and renewal procedures for CHIPs makes it easier for them to adopt long-term improvements in these programs, according to HHS.

Twenty-three states are to receive the 2011 performance bonuses: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

CHFM Seeks Fellowship Applicants

The Center for the History of Family Medicine, or CHFM, has announced its second annual Fellowship in the History of Family Medicine( and is inviting interested family physicians, other health professionals, historians, scholars, educators and scientists to apply.

The fellowship winner will receive a grant for as much as $1,500 to support travel, lodging and incidental expenses relating to conducting research on a project of his or her choosing that deals with any aspect on the history of general practice, family practice or family medicine; its practitioners; and their role in health and health care in the United States. The proposed project must lead to a durable product in any format (e.g., written report or manuscript, CD/DVD program, audio or video recording) of the applicant's choosing.

The funds will go directly to the individual applicant rather than the institution where he or she is employed. The deadline to apply( is March 30.