News in Brief: Week of Dec. 17-21

December 19, 2012 05:35 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

FDA Warns of Serious Skin Reactions When Combining Hepatitis C Drugs

According to an FDA press release(, the agency has received reports of serious skin reactions, some fatal, in patients taking the hepatitis C drug telaprevir (Incivek) in combination with the drugs peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. Some patients died when they continued to receive the combination treatment after developing a worsening, or progressive, rash and systemic symptoms

The FDA said it is adding a boxed warning to the Incivek drug label stating that Incivek combination treatment must be stopped immediately in patients experiencing a rash with systemic symptoms or a progressive severe rash.

Physicians and other health care professionals are encouraged to make sure patients know that a rash may occur with Incivek combination treatment and to explain the signs and symptoms of severe skin reaction and when to seek care. If serious skin reactions occur, all three components of Incivek combination treatment, including peginterferon alfa and ribavirin, must be discontinued immediately, and the patient should receive urgent medical care. Consideration also should be given to stopping any other medications that may be associated with serious skin reactions.

Physicians are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA's MedWatch program(

New Year Brings Enhanced Payments for Medicaid Primary Care Services

The first of the year marks the official start of a provision in the health care reform law that will bring Medicaid payment rates for primary care services up to at least Medicare levels for the next two years.

The measure, known as the Medicaid/Medicare parity provision, is intended to enhance access to primary care services in Medicaid by encouraging more primary care physicians and other primary care providers to participate in the Medicaid program. To qualify for the enhanced payments, a primary care physician is required to first self-attest that they are board certified in family medicine, internal medicine or pediatrics. They then are required to show that at least 60 percent of their billing for evaluation and management codes is for primary care services.

CMS has not yet issued guidance on the self-attestation process. States, however, are responsible for retroactively paying physicians up to the Medicare rate for Medicaid primary care services provided after Jan. 1, according to CMS officials.

The law also requires states to submit a state plan amendment (SPA) stating how they will implement the provision -- whether they will make increased payments on a monthly or quarterly basis, for example. States have until March 31 to submit their SPAs, and CMS then has 90 days to approve, disapprove or ask for more information about the plans. This should not affect the amount of money that is paid out because states are responsible for retroactively paying physicians and other primary care providers who are eligible for the enhanced Medicaid payments.

Foundation Gives $700,000 in Grants to Aid Docs in New York, New Jersey

The Physicians Foundation, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, is providing $700,000 to assist doctors in New York and New Jersey with their rebuilding efforts following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

In a release(, the organization said it will give a $350,000 grant to both the Medical Society of the State of New York and the Medical Society of New Jersey to be distributed to physicians in critical need.

The funding was created to alleviate losses to health care delivery caused by the storm and to mitigate the deterioration of health care infrastructure. The grants can be used in various ways, including the relocation or rehabilitation of physicians' medical offices, equipment replacement, rebuilding patient records, and payment of temporary operating expenses.

2013 Grants Program Aims to Further PCMH Work

The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare recently announced its 2013 grants program. According to a Dec. 13 press release( the national nonprofit organization is now accepting letters of interest from U.S. health care organizations that seek to enhance patient care within the context of the patient-centered medical home (PCMH).

Grant amounts range from $25,000 to $75,000, will be awarded beginning in September 2013 and will last for one to two years.

In particular, the center is looking for applications from primary care practices and organizations that are actively involved in PCMH programs, such as CMS' Comprehensive Primary Care initiative, or that are certified or recognized as PCMHs by one of the following groups: The Joint Commission, the National Committee for Quality Assurance or the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care. Additional information( about 2013 grants from the Schwartz Center program is available online.

Chronic Pain, Opioids Webinar Coming Summer 2013

The AAFP, supported by an educational grant from Purdue Pharma, L.P., will unveil a new "Chronic Pain and Safe Use of Opioids" webinar to members in late summer 2013.

The continuing medical education course will focus on educating family physicians about chronic, nonmalignant pain and encouraging them to talk to patients about past or present risk factors. The curriculum will use outcomes data gleaned from the "Mission: Pain Management -- The Efficient First Visit" session held in October at the 2012 AAFP Annual Assembly in Philadelphia.

The Academy plans to address gaps identified in the outcome measures and barriers identified by members who attended the October session. A patient brochure also will be offered that will address several topics, including the elements of pain, how opioids work, the safe use of opioids and how to recognize signs of opioid overdose.

CMS Initiates New Electronic Newsletter

To keep physicians and other Medicare fee-for-service professionals updated on need-to-know Medicare information, CMS has initiated a new weekly electronic publication it calls the Medicare FFS Provider e-News.

Subscribers can learn about upcoming calls, meetings and events and get updates on CMS regulations, programs, and claims and coding information.

Physicians need only supply a valid e-mail address to subscribe( to the free CMS service.