FDA Releases Report on Counterfeit Drug Alert Network
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the final report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) counterfeit drug task force. The information was compiled after meetings with security experts, federal and state law enforcement officials, technology developers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, consumer groups, and the general public. The report lists specific steps the agency is taking to secure the national drug supply. Part of the plan includes a counterfeit drug alert network of national organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), that will provide their members with up-to-date information about counterfeit drug incidents. Other steps listed in the report include securing the drug product and packaging, securing distribution of the product, enhancing regulatory oversight and enforcement, increasing penalties for counterfeiters, heightening public awareness of counterfeit drugs, and increasing international collaboration. The full report is available athttp://www.fda.gov/oc/initiatives/counterfeit.
AAFP Supports Racial Disparities Bill
The AAFP has put its support behind a bill (S. 2091) that would address racial disparities in health outcomes. The bill, Closing the Health Care Gap Act, was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., (R-Tenn.). The proposed legislation is an attempt to develop uniform performance measures that will monitor health disparities among participants in federally funded programs. It would promote diversity among health care professionals and expand access to health services in minority communities. Other aspects addressed in the bill include effective data collection and analysis, grants to expand access, educating health care professionals in cultural competency, and enhanced research. The letter that AAFP Board Chair James C. Martin, M.D., San Antonio, wrote after the proposal was introduced is available online athttps://www.aafp.org/x26159.xml.
AAFP Makes EHR Presentation at Congressional Staff Briefing
In February, AAFP president, Michael Fleming, M.D., Shreveport, La., and the AAFP's Center for Health Information Technology, with representatives of firms in AAFP's public and private electronic health record (EHR) partnership, demonstrated an EHR system to more than 30 congressional staff members and others. The purpose of the demonstration was to explain the latest uses of health information technology and how it is being applied in the nation's small and medium-sized practices. AAFP's initiative, Partners for Patients, is an alliance of software, hardware, and connectivity solutions companies that allows AAFP members to purchase hardware and software at discounts of 15 to 50 percent. Other benefits of the EHR initiative include standardizing performance and quality measures, providing secure core medical information to enhance continuity of care, and connecting medical practices to pharmacies, laboratories, and hospitals for the secure transmission and exchange of health data. With these improvements, there should be fewer errors, improved efficiency, and reduced duplication of effort. Dr. Fleming's remarks are online athttps://www.aafp.org/x26161.xml.
AAFP Presents Testimony on ‘Care Management Fee’ Concept
The AAFP presented testimony to the Practicing Physicians' Advisory Council of the HHS about the AAFP's goals for managing Medicare patients who have chronic diseases. The AAFP asked for the Council's support and input in working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to design and test a “care management fee” concept for physicians working with Medicare patients who have chronic diseases. The AAFP's official recommendation is that CMS, working with the primary care community, identify a model for primary care physicians to follow in managing Medicare patients who have multiple chronic diseases. This model should adopt a care management fee for reimbursing physicians who agree to participate in chronic care demonstration projects, use information technology and other tools to deliver evidence-based care, and produce outcomes data for improvement and accountability purposes. The council tabled the recommendation, but requested that time be reserved during the May meeting to discuss the option of a full CMS presentation. The full report is available online athttps://www.aafp.org/x26272.xml.
HHS Awards $595 Million for AIDS Care in Major Urban Areas
The HHS announced 51 grants equalling more than $595 million to the cities with the highest rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The grant money will provide primary care and supportive services for low-income residents who have HIV or AIDS. The grants are funded under Title I of the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act, and they provide essential care and support services to patients who lack or are only partially protected by health insurance. Covered services include physician visits, case management, assistance in obtaining medications, home-based and hospice care, and substance abuse and mental health counseling. For 2004, the top four grants went to New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. For the complete list of grants, see the HHS news release online athttp://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2004pres/20040301a.html.
CDC Releases Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality Rates
The National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released life expectancy and infant mortality rates in the report titled Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2002. Life expectancy in the United States increased from 77.2 in 2001 to 77.4 in 2002. Infant deaths increased from 27,568 to 27,977. The report lists the top three causes of death in neonatal infants: birth defects, disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, and maternal complications of pregnancy. Deaths from sudden infant death syndrome continued to decline. The full report is online athttp://www.cdc.gov/nchs/releases/04news/infantmort.htm.