News in Brief: Week of Oct. 22-26

October 24, 2012 03:30 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

Medicare Part D Plans to Tackle Opioid Abuse in 2013

Beginning in 2013, family physicians should be on the alert for occasional letters from CMS alerting them to potential opioid abuse by patients.

In January, Medicare Part D plans will undertake retrospective reviews( of patients' opioid use. If an individual patient receives opioid prescriptions from more than four different prescribers and fills such prescriptions at more than four different pharmacies, a red flag is raised in the patient's Medicare file.

The Part D plan associated with that patient will send all of the physicians and health care professionals involved with prescribing opioids for that patient a letter alerting them to the fact that the patient is receiving prescriptions from multiple prescribers and pharmacies.

According to CMS, the purpose of the program is to make prescribers aware of the potential of patient misuse of opioids with an end goal of reducing patient overuse of opioids.

Request an Electronic Prescribing Hardship Exemption for 2013

Between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, physicians can submit requests( for significant hardship exemptions from CMS' 2013 electronic prescribing (eRx) penalty. CMS will review requests on a case-by-case basis; all decisions on hardship exemption requests are final.

Requests for 2014 exemptions will be handled at a later date.

Physicians are encouraged to review details about the CMS eRx Incentive Program that are spelled out in an MLN Matters( article.

Physician support also is available from CMS Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT, via the QualityNet Help Desk at (866) 288-8912.

Daily Multivitamin Moderately Reduces Cancer Rates in Men 50 and Older, Study Says

A multivitamin a day keeps cancer away among men 50 and older. That's the apparent conclusion of a recently released study( that followed 15,000 male physicians for more than 10 years and found that those who took a multivitamin on a daily basis experienced an 8 percent reduction in cancer rates compared to men who took a placebo. Researchers were unable to determine which cancers the multivitamins prevented.

The study, published in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association and conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, suggests that, at least for men, there might be benefits to taking multivitamins as a way to prevent cancer, said John Gaziano, M.D., an author of the study. It is not clear whether the multivitamins prevent cancer in men under the age of 50 or among women or children. Other physicians, meanwhile, said more research is needed to validate the findings of the study.

New Study Documents Growth in Nation's Obesity Rates

The proportion of severely obese Americans climbed from 3.9 percent to 6.6 percent of the population from 2000 to 2010, outpacing the growth in the number of Americans with moderate obesity and making severely obese Americans the fastest growing demographic among the nation's obese population, according to a new study in the International Journal of Obesity.

The study, which was conducted by the Rand Corp. and based on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, also found that the percentage of Americans who are overweight by 100 pounds or more increased by roughly 70 percent from 2000 to 2010. However, the rate of increase started to slow in 2005. This is the first time in 20 years that the trend has slowed, according to Roland Strum, a senior Rand economist and lead author of the study.

Handling Patients' Questions About Medicare Open Enrollment Period

CMS is reminding seniors and their physicians that Medicare's open enrollment( period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, all Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to change their Medicare health plan and prescription drug coverage for 2013.

It's not unusual for family physicians to get questions from patients during the annual Medicare enrollment period. Physicians can reassure patients who are satisfied with their current Medicare plan that they do not need to take any action.

Patients also can be referred to Medicare's website(, which includes a 2013 Medicare plan finder( Patients can get questions answered by phone at (800) 633-4227, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.