Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule Is Online
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recently posted an online version of the recommended immunization schedule for children and adolescents through age 18 years in the United States for January 2004 through June 2004. The recommended schedule is a cooperative effort of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the AAFP, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The schedule, which is available athttps://www.aafp.org/x7666.xml, extends only through June because it is expected that a schedule for the second half of 2004 will include routine influenza vaccination for children from six months through 23 months of age. The recommendations also include a catch-up chart for patients whose immunizations were delayed. This childhood immunization schedule also was published in the January 1, 2004 issue of American Family Physician (AFP). The adult immunization schedule is available athttps://www.aafp.org/x14956.xml and was published in the December 15, 2003 issue of AFP.
FDA Issues Alert on Safety of Dietary Supplements Containing Ephedra
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a consumer alert that dietary supplements containing ephedra present an unreasonable risk of illness or injury, and should not be consumed. The agency also notified manufacturers and marketers of these products of its intent to publish a final rule prohibiting the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids. The final rule will become effective 60 days after its publication. The FDA took this action after conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the pharmacology, safety, effectiveness, and adverse effects of dietary supplements containing ephedra. This process is required under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 for banning a dietary supplement that presents a significant and unreasonable risk to human health. Ephedra, a naturally occurring substance derived from botanicals, is an adrenaline-like stimulant that can have potentially dangerous effects on the heart. Its principal active ingredient is ephedrine which, when chemically synthesized, is regulated as a drug. Products containing ephedra have been promoted to aid weight loss, enhance sports performance, and increase energy. For more information and links to related documents, go online tohttp://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2003pres/20031230.html.
Summary of New Medicare Legislation Available Online
The AAFP Division of Government Relations has posted a summary of the new Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act online athttps://www.aafp.org/x25558.xml. The law provides for a 1.5 percent increase in physician Medicare reimbursement in 2004 and 2005. It also includes a prescription drug benefit for seniors, a plan to develop standards for voluntary electronic transmission of prescriptions, measures to address discrepancies in rural physicians' reimbursement fees and to provide incentives for rural care, and a moratorium on a new rule that would have canceled payments to hospitals for residency training in nonhospital settings using volunteer teachers.
Presidential Candidates Provide Views on Various Health Issues
The AAFP recently contacted President Bush and the leading Democratic presidential candidates to obtain their views on various health policy issues of importance to family physicians and their patients. The views of the candidates who responded are available online athttps://www.aafp.org/fpr/20040100/4.html, and include those of Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.). Topics include access to health care, Medicare, medical liability, training for primary care physicians, electronic health records, and funding levels for the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The AAFP also contacted the following candidates: Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, Chicago; Gen. Wesley Clark, Little Rock, Ark.; Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.); and the Rev. Al Sharpton, New York City.
New Web Resource Designed to Improve Care of Patients Who Have Diabetes
The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) recently launched a new online resource to assist health care professionals deliver the type of ongoing, evidence-based, patient-centered care required to effectively manage diabetes and prevent the serious complications associated with this disease. The NDEP's team of diabetes experts contend that comprehensive systems change will make it possible to adopt proven models of care and translate conclusions derived from clinical studies into day-to-day policies, procedures, and operations. The Web site,http://www.betterdiabetescare.nih.gov, provides models, links, resources, and tools to help health care professionals assess their current situations and determine priorities for system changes; develop models of care and strategies for overcoming issues; make suggestions for realistic action plans; implement actions with the help of resource materials; and evaluate the results of the systems change process.
AAFP Supports FDA Recommendation for OTC Emergency Contraception
At the AAFP's 2003 Congress of Delegates meeting, the national representatives voted to support making emergency contraception available over the counter and recommended the inclusion of information on safe sexual practices, various birth control options, and recommendations regarding the advantages of having a personal physician. In December, two FDA advisory panels recommended that Plan B, an emergency contraception (“morning after”) pill, be made available over the counter. “The AAFP supports the change to (over-the-counter) status because of emergency contraception's reported long-term safety record, its ease of use for our patients, the time sensitive element of therapy, and increased access to the medication for the uninsured in this country, “ said AAFP Board Chair James Martin, M.D., San Antonio.