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Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(3):483-484

Private Industry, Academia Team Up on HIV Vaccine

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has announced the formation of four public-private teams that will work toward the development of a vaccine for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). NIAID will spend about $70 million on contracts for these four HIV vaccine design and development teams (HVDDTs). The teams will tap resources of private industry with academic research centers, with the goal of bringing HIV vaccines into human testing. The HVDDT program is in response to President Clinton's call to increase public-private cooperation in the development of vaccines. “Many vaccines in use today resulted from both government-sponsored and private research,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID. At a time when the development of vaccines is a costly proposition with little likelihood of significant profit, “the HVDDT program encourages pharmaceutical companies to invest more in AIDS vaccine research by partially offsetting their financial risk,” said Peggy Johnston, Ph.D., assistant director at NIAID. The participants in the HVDDT program are Advanced BioScience Laboratories, Kensington, Md., and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester; Chiron Corporation, Emeryville, Calif.; the University of New South Wales (Australia) and a consortium of Australian universities and research organizations; Wyeth Lederle Vaccines and Nutrition, Pearl River, N.Y.; the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; and Duke University, Durham, N.C. For more information on NIAID's vaccine research program, visit

AAFP Voices Support for Medicare Fee Increase

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has announced its support for a proposal that would raise Medicare payments to all physicians by about 3 percent. AAFP has been lobbying Congress to continue supporting the transition for resource-based practice expenses. An opposing proposal called “Halt2000” has garnered some interest in Congress. Proponents of this plan have called for stopping the transition and have proposed an exception for some of the most widely used office codes. They estimate that exempting these services would cost about $2 billion. However, the impact on individual physicians would vary under this plan. AAFP is proposing an alternative that would affect all physicians equally. Under its plan, an increase of $2 billion would be applied to the conversion factors and would benefit all physicians equally. Seven other medical organizations have joined AAFP in its lobbying efforts on this issue. For more information, visit the AAFP's Web site (

Cigars to Carry Health Warning Labels

Surgeon General David Satcher has hailed an agreement between U.S. cigar manufacturers and federal regulators to affix warning labels to cigar packages. “This is a significant advancement in our nation's continuing public health battle against tobacco,” Satcher said. The absence of warnings gave the impression that cigars were a harmless alternative to cigarettes, he said, even though studies have shown that there “are no safe forms of tobacco.” A 1998 report by the National Cancer Institute linked regular cigar smoking with cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus and lungs, depending on frequency of use. The labels, which will be bigger and bolder than those found on cigarette packages, are expected to be in use within six months. Federal regulators say they now will consider requiring labels for pipe tobacco.

States Lack Asthma Tracking System, Says CDC

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most states do not have the ability to monitor asthma. The findings, reported in a study by Health Track, show that 27 states have no tracking system for the disease. Furthermore, 30 states lack current statewide information and more than 40 states do not have ready access to information on people receiving asthma-related emergency care. The report comes at a time when asthma rates have increased alarmingly, up to 160 percent in certain groups. According to the National Institutes of Health, asthma is the most common chronic disease in children, necessitating more emergency department visits and school absences than any other condition.

The Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund Act Is Implemented

On May 31, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the publication of an interim rule in the Federal Register for filing petitions from persons seeking federal payments up to $100,000 because they or their relative contracted human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from contaminated antihemophilic factor between July 1, 1982, and December 31, 1987. The Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund Act makes $75 million available to eligible petitioners this fiscal year. Spouses and children who contracted HIV from these individuals and survivors may also be eligible for payments. “People who qualify for Ricky Ray funds have been through enough,” said HRSA Administrator Claude Earl Fox, M.D., M.P.H. “We've worked hard to make this a simple process and get checks in the mail to eligible individuals as quickly as possible.” HRSA has established a toll-free number (888-496-0338) and Web site ( for the Ricky Ray program.

Clinton Orders Medicare to Cover Clinical Trials for Seniors

President Clinton has issued an executive mandate for Medicare to cover routine costs for beneficiaries enrolled in clinical trials to encourage more senior citizens to participate in clinical research. In the past, researchers could not guarantee that Medicare would cover costs involved with trials, and seniors have been reluctant to participate. According to the White House, 63 percent of cancer patients are older than 65, but only 25 percent are enrolled in clinical trials. Several bills are pending that would force Medicare to cover the costs of trial participants' routine care, but White House officials concluded that the president had the authority to issue an order.

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