News in Brief: Week of Sept. 22-26

September 25, 2014 10:13 am News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

AAFP Endorses ACP Pelvic Exam Recommendation

The AAFP has endorsed an American College of Physicians' clinical guideline( that recommends against performing screening pelvic examination in asymptomatic, nonpregnant women.

Evidence showed that the diagnostic accuracy of pelvic examination for detecting ovarian cancer or bacterial vaginosis is low. The recommendation also explained that harms associated with the screening outweighed any benefits of the exam. Indirect evidence showed that screening pelvic examination does not reduce mortality or morbidity in asymptomatic women, with one trial finding that screening for ovarian cancer with more sensitive tests (transvaginal ultrasonography and cancer antigen 125) also did not reduce mortality or morbidity rates.

CVS Health Research Institute Releases Sovaldi Findings

The CVS Health Research Institute has released a white paper analyzing "real world" use of hepatitis C virus drug sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), including discontinuation rates for nearly 2,000 patients managed by CVS/caremark, the company's pharmacy benefit management business. Manufactured by Gilead Sciences Inc., the drug has an average wholesale price of about $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for a 12-week treatment course.

The data showed that from May through August, sofosbuvir use plateaued and then trended downward. "Despite the current plateau and decline in Sovaldi utilization, we expect to see another peak in spending for hepatitis C medications upon the release of the new all-oral treatment," said Troyen Brennan, M.D., chief medical officer for CVS Health, in the news release.

The new CVS Health data also provided a first look at the drug's use outside of the clinical trial setting and showed a therapy discontinuation rate of 8.1 percent -- about four times higher than in trials. Furthermore, patients who were completely new to hepatitis C treatment were more likely to discontinue therapy, a finding that has substantial implications for clinicians and their patients.

In related news, Gilead Sciences announced in a Sept. 15 news release( that it had agreed to partner with seven India-based pharmaceutical companies to produce a generic version of sofosbuvir in the country, which represents 54 percent of those infected with hepatitis C virus globally.

Volunteer to Participate in ICD-10 End-to-End Testing Week

CMS is looking for about 850 volunteers to participate in ICD-10 end-to-end testing during the week of Jan. 26-30. Applications to participate in this testing week are due by Oct. 3. Forms are available( from individual Medicare administrative contractors (MACs).

The sample group of submitters -- including physicians and claims clearinghouses -- will work with MACs and the common electronic data interchange contractor to ensure that

  • claims with ICD-10 codes are successfully submitted to the Medicare fee-for-service claims system,
  • claims are appropriately adjudicated and
  • accurate remittance advices are produced.

Selected volunteers will be notified by Oct. 24. Check a special edition article in CMS' Medicare Learning Network publication MLN Matters( for more details about ICD-10 testing efforts.

Health IT Interoperability Issues Holding Back ACOs

Survey responses from 62 accountable care organizations (ACOs) show that health information technology interoperability issues across health care systems, physicians and other health care professionals are proving to be a barrier to efforts to improve the quality of health care.

According to a Sept. 24 press release( the national health IT survey was conducted by the eHealth Initiative, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, and Premier Inc., a health care improvement company.

Many ACOs indicated that the cost of interoperability was prohibitive for their organizations.

HHS Announces $295 Million in Health Center Funding

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell recently announced( that $295 million in funding from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would be directed to 1,195 health centers in every state and territory to expand primary care services.

The awards will increase comprehensive primary care by allowing the centers to hire 4,750 new staff, including new health care professionals. With the additional resources, the facilities will also be able to stay open later and expand care to include new services such as oral health, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision services. The funding will help health centers reach an estimated 1.5 million new patients nationwide.

Health centers are helping to expand insurance coverage by linking individuals to coverage through outreach and enrollment in state and federal insurance market exchanges. Recent statistics show that health centers provided enrollment assistance to more than 6 million people in the past year.

The nation's 1,300 health centers operate more than 9,200 service delivery sites and provide care to more than 21.7 million patients.