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Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(6):1243-1244

Foundation Releases Data on Prescription Drug Trends

The Kaiser Family Foundation is releasing a publication on trends in prescription drug coverage. Prescription Drug Trends—A Chartbook, covers spending, prices, use and industry structure. Some of the key points include the following:

  • The share of drug expenses paid by private insurance increased from 34 percent in 1990 to 51 percent in 1998. However, 23 percent of nonelderly persons and 31 percent of Medicare recipients had no prescription drug coverage in 1996.

  • National drug spending was $91 billion in 1998, more than double that of 1990.

  • Prescription drug spending is one of the fastest growing components of personal health care spending.

According to the foundation, the largest factor driving the increase in drug expenditures is the increasing number of prescriptions, with newer, more expensive drugs replacing older drugs. On average, retail drug prices have increased 6.7 percent each year since 1991, more than double the overall inflation rate. More information on prescription drug trends is available on the Kaiser Family Foundation Web site (, or a hard copy can be requested by calling 800-656-4533.

ISMP Pushing for Passage of Bills Dealing with Medical Errors

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) is supporting two new Senate bills that aim to curb medical mistakes. Both bills call for voluntary error reporting that is national in scope and has confidentiality protections for information that is reported. The “Patient Safety and Errors Reduction Act” is sponsored by Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.) and Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.); the “Voluntary Error Reduction and Improvement in Patient Safety Act of 2000” is sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.). ISMP President Michael Cohen, M.S., is heartened by the bipartisan support for such legislation. “These two bills focus appropriately on finding solutions instead of merely identifying problems,” Cohen said. “Both bills give us better tools for ensuring patient safety than other initiatives we've seen that are primarily punitive in nature, don't increase provider accountability for patient safety or public trust, and in the end would only serve to drive medical error further underground.” The ISMP is a nonprofit organization with a mission to act as an educational resource for the prevention of medication-system errors.

Officials Discuss Potential of Studying Agent Orange in Vietnam

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) held a public meeting in August to discuss the possibility of studying the effects of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. According to NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden, the Vietnamese government has already agreed to discuss collaborative research between U.S. and Vietnamese scientists. The purpose of the August meeting, in Monterey, Calif., was to get advice on the feasibility of such studies. For more information about the meeting, contact the National Toxicology Program Liaison and Scientific Review Office, NIEHS, P.O. Box 12233, A3-01, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, telephone: 919-541-0530, or e-mail:

WONCA Holds Rural Health Conference in Calgary

The World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) held its fourth World Rural Health Conference on Aug. 16–19 in Calgary, Canada. The theme of the event was “Progress Through Partnerships.” The meetings were based on presentations from conference delegates. Over 180 abstracts from more than 25 countries, with representatives from every region and continent, were given at the conference. Topics discussed at the conference included physician retention in rural areas; regional education networks; telehealth and communications; women's health; trauma, triage and transport; and clinician partnerships. WONCA will hold its next meeting, a World Conference, May 2001 in Durban, South Africa. For more information about WONCA, visit its Web site at

AMA's Tobacco Prevention Program Announces Expansion

Thomas P. Houston, M.D., director of the American Medical Association's (AMA's) SmokeLess States National Tobacco Prevention and Control Program announced that the program will more than double its current size with the addition of $52 million in funding. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Princeton, N.J., the expansion will enable all states to be eligible to participate in the program's tobacco-prevention efforts. According to Dr. Houston, the program will broaden its efforts among children and teenagers. SmokeLess States is the largest nongovernment-funded tobacco prevention program. For more information, contact SmokeLess States at 312-464-5547.

New International Network Will Study HIV Prevention

The National Institutes of Health is forming an international HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) to develop and test nonvaccine strategies to prevent the spread of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). The network will explore alternatives to vaccines that may block or reduce infection with HIV. This program will comprise core operational, data and laboratory centers, as well as research sites in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and North America. “We must investigate all potential strategies to stop HIV transmission, including microbes and other biomedical and behavioral interventions,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a leading sponsor of the network.

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