News in Brief: Week of June 3-7

June 05, 2013 04:55 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

Survey Report Highlights Practice Trends of U.S. Physicians

The 2013 edition of a free report titled Practice Profitability Index: Tracing the Operational & Financial Health of U.S. Physician Practices( covers a variety of practice issues, including a downward trend in profitability, an increase in administrative requirements and renewed interest in operational changes.

[News in Brief]

The report is available to physicians who complete a brief sign-in process. A total of 5,012 physicians participated in a survey, which was administered in April, and 77 percent of respondents were family physicians or internists.

According to the report, 58 percent of all physician practice owners said they want to remain independent. Another 21 percent were considering selling, 11 percent were actively trying to sell and 10 percent had already sold their practices due to profit challenges.

More than 70 percent of physician practice owners in Texas -- the most of any state -- were committed to retaining independence in practice.

CMS Finalizes Rule for Small Business Health Options Program

CMS has finalized its Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) rule( as is called for in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. According to the health care law, a SHOP will exist in every state to help small business employers provide health insurance options to their employees.

Beginning in October, small businesses will choose from a range of coverage options for their employees through the new program. Employee coverage will begin on Jan. 1.

State SHOPs will offer a single point of entry for employers and their employees to apply for coverage. Eligible employers may qualify for a tax credit worth up to 50 percent of the employer’s premium contribution.

Samples of application forms for employees of small businesses( as well as for small business employers( also are available online.

NIH Recruiting for GRADE Study

Family physicians may want to let their patients with type 2 diabetes know that the NIH has announced( it is looking to enroll about 5,000 patients in a study comparing the respective long-term benefits and risks of four widely used glucose-lowering medications in combination with the type 2 diabetes drug metformin. The four drugs are the sulfonylurea glimepiride, the DPP-4 (dipeptidyl peptidase 4) inhibitor sitagliptin, the GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) agonist liraglutide, and the basal insulin glargine.

According to the agency's news release, the project -- the Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes: A Comparative Effectiveness (GRADE) Study( -- will compare drug effects on glucose levels, adverse effects, diabetes complications and quality of life during an average period of nearly five years. At present, no long-term studies have been conducted regarding which drugs work best in combination with metformin and have the fewest side effects.

Investigators at 37 study sites are seeking people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the past five years. Study candidates may be on metformin but not on any other diabetes medication. During the study, all participants will take metformin, along with a second medication randomly assigned from the group of four.

Participants will have their diabetes medications managed free of charge through the study, including at least four medical visits per year, but will receive other health care services from their own health care professionals.

MedWatch Turns 20, Offers New Tools

As part of its effort to spotlight the 20th anniversary( of its Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program, MedWatch(, the FDA has announced the availability of two new tools to help physicians and patients report adverse events.

The first tool, MedWatchLearn(, is a Web-based learning tool designed to educate students, health professionals and consumers on reporting events in a manner that provides the best information for reviewers to further investigate medical product problems.

The second tool, Form FDA 3500B(, is a new consumer-friendly voluntary reporting form that is less heavy on technical language than the existing 3500 form, which is designed for physicians and other health care professionals.

"Over the years, most of the voluntary MedWatch forms have been submitted by health care professionals, but recently, consumers have been increasingly interested in participating in the program," the MedWatch release said. "The new, consumer-friendly MedWatch reporting form … responded to consumer concerns that the form is too technical. FDA worked with groups such as AARP, Consumers Union and the National Women's Health Network to develop a new consumer form."