News in Brief: Week of Aug. 26-30

August 28, 2013 02:06 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

HHS Offers Health-related Mobile Device Apps for Physicians, Consumers

HHS has announced it is offering a number of health-related mobile applications( for use on a variety of mobile devices. The mobile apps are designed to help both physicians and their patients.

The complete list of 33 apps includes apps such as one dubbed the "Electronic Preventive Services Selector." First developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as a Web-based service, the app is designed to help physicians identify preventive services that are appropriate for patients by accessing the latest evidence-based recommendations released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Family physicians also might want to recommend to their patients an app called "My Dietary Supplements" (MyDS), which allows patients to enter and store the names and dosage amounts of their dietary supplements to use, for example, when seeing their physician. MyDS allows them to e-mail a complete list of their dietary supplements to their health care professionals and/or print it out for reference.

Download information is included for each app offered by HHS.

Qsymia Now Available at Certified Retail Pharmacies

Mountain View, Calif.-based pharmaceutical manufacturer VIVUS has announced that its weight-management drug Qsymia now is available through certified retail pharmacies( The drug also is still available via certified mail-order pharmacies that are part of a home delivery network set up by the company.

Qsymia is indicated as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management in adult patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or more, or a BMI of 27 kg/m2 or more in the presence of at least one weight-related comorbidity. It is a schedule IV drug that contains the teratogenic substance topiramate, which has been associated with orofacial clefts in infants exposed to the drug during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Based on that risk, the FDA directed VIVUS to develop a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) for Qsymia. Launched in September 2012, the REMS highlights the importance of pregnancy prevention for females of reproductive potential who receive the drug. The REMS also includes a medication guide for patients, a training program for health care professionals, a patient brochure on risks associated with use of the drug and other educational tools.

Prescribers are highly encouraged to take the company's health care professional training program( In accordance with the REMS, certified pharmacies must provide both the medication guide and the "Risk of Birth Defects with Qsymia" patient brochure with every prescription and every refill.

CDC Opens Digital Library Online

The CDC has announced it is now offering CDC Stacks( to family physicians and other health care professionals, as well as the general public. The free digital library is composed of curated collections of full-text, peer-reviewed articles; guidelines and recommendations; and many more documents on a broad range of public health topics. The CDC-published documents are retained indefinitely, and the library is updated weekly.

Users can search the full text of all documents, browse entries by public health subject, and explore the collections of more than 16,500 articles and documents on relevant topics.

Among the collections included in CDC Stacks are

  • CDC-authored articles published in open-access journals;
  • reproductive health surveys from developing countries since 1973;
  • reports on influenza, pneumonia and respiratory disease, primarily in the Americas from 1957 through 1981; and
  • Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports dating back to 1952.

Additional collections and ongoing additions to existing collections are planned for the future.

HHS Awards Grants for Health Care Navigators

Millions of uninsured Americans are expected to start enrolling in newly created health insurance marketplaces this fall. To help the process along, HHS has awarded $67 million in grants to 105 Navigator grant applicants in federally facilitated and state partnership marketplaces. The Navigator grantees( and their staff members will serve as in-person resources for Americans seeking help in choosing and enrolling in the plans.

According to HHS, navigators are "trained to provide unbiased information in a culturally competent manner to consumers about health insurance; the new health insurance marketplaces; qualified health plans; and public programs, including Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program."

School Districts Strengthen Policies on Physical Education, Nutrition, Tobacco

The CDC has released results from a 2012 study( that says the nation's school districts are making progress in strengthening physical education, nutrition and tobacco policies.

The study, known as the School Health Policies and Practices Study, found that more than 96 percent of school districts require elementary schools to teach physical education, an increase of about 11 percent from 2000. In addition, more than 43 districts now require schools to prohibit offering junk foods in vending machines, an increase of roughly 14 percent from 2006, according to the survey.

The survey, which is based on state- and district-level data, also found that only 33.5 percent of school districts allow soft drinks on school property, a decrease from 46.6 percent in 2006. Another 67.5 percent of districts have polices that prohibit tobacco use during any school-related activity, an increase of about 21 percent from 2000.