News in Brief: Week of Jan. 14-18

January 16, 2013 04:50 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

GlaxoSmithKline Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine Available Soon

The FDA approved GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK's) quadrivalent influenza vaccine in mid-December, adding another option for family physicians looking to prevent seasonal influenza in their patients. Fluarix Quadrivalent, an intramuscular vaccine, is indicated for children ages 3 years and older and adults and will protect against two lineage strains of influenza A and two strains of influenza B.

According to a GSK press release(, the new vaccine will be available in the United States in time for the 2013-14 flu season. At that time, complete prescribing information will be posted on the GSK website(

The FDA approved MedImmune LLC's FluMist Quadrivalent vaccine -- a live, attenuated influenza vaccine that is administered as a nasal spray -- in late February 2012.

GSK said it also plans to continue fulfilling orders for its trivalent influenza vaccines.

Grant Money Flows to New York State Community Health Centers

The New York State Health Foundation recently awarded six grants aimed at supporting projects in five medically underserved regions of New York state.

According to a Jan. 7 press release(, the award money -- $600,000 in all -- will be used to enable the centers to take practical steps to care for more patients, expand existing sites, establish new sites, and/or increase the range of services provided. Activities such as clinical and business planning, real estate assistance, workforce recruitment and training, and consolidations will be supported by the grants.

Details about individual projects are included in the release. Projects were selected through a competitive review process.

HHS Report Describes Contributions of Fraud Prevention System

HHS has released a report( to Congress saying that its Fraud Prevention System (FPS) saved the Medicare program an estimated $3 for every $1 spent. In all, says the report, the FPS prevented or identified an estimated $115.4 million in fraudulent Medicare payments during its first year of operation.

CMS put the FPS in place in 2011, using the system to run predictive algorithms and other analytics on all Medicare fee-for-service claims and to apply investigative resources to suspect claims and providers. The system allows CMS to move beyond a "pay and chase" approach to a more proactive strategy that identifies fraud before payments are made, says HHS.

"When FPS predictive models identify egregious, suspect or aberrant activity, the system automatically generates and prioritizes leads for review and investigation," says the report. "CMS and its program integrity contractors use the FPS to identify, prevent and stop potentially fraudulent claims."

HHS describes the FPS as one of two pillars in the agency's approach to combating Medicare fraud. The other pillar, the Automated Provider Screening System, identifies ineligible providers and suppliers before they enroll in Medicare and when their eligibility status changes.

Budget Agreement Deals Fiscal Blow to CO-OP Program

The budget deal struck by Congress and the White House on Jan. 1 to avert the fiscal cliff all but defunded a provision in the health care reform act that is designed to spur competition in the insurance market by funding nonprofit insurance carriers.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act called for $6 billion in funding for the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program, but funding for the program has eroded during the past few years. A previous budget deal cut more than $3 billion from the program, and the Jan. 1 budget agreement( cut an additional $1 billion, eliminating nearly all of the program's unobligated funds and leaving only a small amount of money to administer CO-OP grants that already have been issued.

To date, HHS has paid out almost $2 billion in loans to 24 CO-OPs, which are expected to start accepting their first clients in October.

HHS Announces Health Record Design Contest Winners

HHS recently announced the winners of a design contest aimed at helping patients and their families see electronic health records as a valuable health care tool.

According to an HHS press release(, organizers of the Health Design Challenge received more than 230 submissions. Designers were challenged to improve the visual layout and style of the information contained in a medical record and create a "human-centered" design to make it easier for patients to manage their health.

The "Best Overall Design" winner will receive $16,000, and the winners in the remaining categories will each receive $5,000.

Take a look at the winning submissions and other top entries in an online gallery(