Manufacturer Will Not Ship Influenza Vaccine as Expected
After British health authorities suspended the manufacturing license for the Chiron Corporation facility in Liverpool, England, the company announced that it will not ship its influenza vaccine (Fluvirin). Chiron anticipated sending up to 48 million doses of the vaccine to the United States, which is about one half of the U.S. vaccine supply. For more information about which patients are considered high risk and who should receive priority immunizations, go to http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldget.htm#high. To read the American Academy of Family Physicians’ (AAFP) recommendations of influenza vaccine, go to https://www.aafp.org/x14093.xml. More news about the canceled shipment is available online at http://www.chiron.com/media/pressreleases/index.html and http://abcnews.go.com/wire/Living/ap20041005_744.html.
SAMHSA Releases Findings of 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the findings of the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. According to the report, lifetime use of marijuana in adolescents 12 to 17 years of age has dropped 5 percent, and current use of marijuana has dropped 30 percent in children 12 to 13 years of age. The survey also included findings on alcohol and tobacco use, prescription drug abuse, other drugs of abuse (cocaine, hallucinogens), mental illness, and substance abuse. More information is available online at http://www.dhhs.gov/news/press/2004pres/20040909b.html. For the full report, go to http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/.
AAFP Supports Legislation on FDA-Sanctioned Drug Imports
The Board of Directors of the AAFP has voted to support proposals allowing importation of drugs. The decision was based on two conditions. First, drugs distributed in the United States should come from plants approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and be manufactured in FDA-inspected facilities. This includes drugs imported from Canada and countries in the European Union. Second, the current HHS safety certification process should be superseded by an FDA approval and inspection system. “The Academy Board wrestled with the development of a policy that would address the costs to our patients and the safety and efficacy of life-saving pharmaceuticals,” said AAFP Board Chair James Martin, M.D., San Antonio. More information is available online at https://www.aafp.org/x29284.xml.
AHRQ Releases Study on Medication Usage in Chronic Illness
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released the results of a study on medication usage in patients with chronic illnesses. According to the report, about two thirds of chronically ill adults do not tell their physicians when they have to cut back on their medications because of the cost. AHRQ surveyed more than 4,000 adults older than 50 years who were taking medications for diabetes, depression, heart conditions, or high cholesterol levels. More than 600 of the patients said they had stopped taking some medication in the past year because of cost, and two thirds of this group said they did not tell their physicians in advance. Of those who did not tell their physician, 58 percent said they did not believe their physician could help them. Patients who did talk to their physician said their medications were not changed to less expensive alternatives, and few reported getting any assistance, such as information about programs that help pay drug costs or where to buy cheaper drugs. The study, “Cost-Related Medication Underuse: Do Patients with Chronic Illnesses Tell Their Doctors?” was published in the September 13, 2004, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. An abstract of the report is available online at http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/164/16/1749.
Robert Graham Center Publishes Study on Length of Family Medicine Training
According to a survey done by the Robert Graham Center: Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, most third-year family medicine residents want to complete their studies in three years, but a substantial minority (37 percent) favor a four-year residency. In addition, 63 percent of survey respondents said they still would have chosen a family medicine residency if it were a four-year training program. Respondents’ reasons for supporting a four-year program include the broad scope of family medicine, the need for more training in specific clinical areas, comparison with the training received by other specialists, and regulations limiting working hours for residents. The full report was published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, and it is available online at http://www.jabfp.org/cgi/content/full/17/5/377.
Medicare Covers PET Scans for Alzheimer’s Disease in Clinical Trials
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that Medicare has expanded its coverage for positron emission tomography (PET) scanning to include patients with suspected Alzheimer’s disease. Patients at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia who meet specific criteria are eligible for enrollment in a peer-reviewed clinical trial to receive a PET scan. CMS will continue to review evidence about the benefits of these scans in additional populations. The CMS decision summary and memo are available online at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/mcd/viewdecisionmemo.asp?id=104.
AHRQ and AAFP Provide Emergency Preparedness Resources
AHRQ has released a new planning guide for community-based mass prophylaxis that outlines the components of epidemic outbreak response, including surveillance, stockpiling, distribution, dispensing, and follow-up. Guidelines for a computer-staffing model for pill-dispensing and vaccination clinics are available, which can be customized for each community. The guide is available online at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2004/cbmpropr.htm. The AAFP has added new information and resources to its bioterrorism response and public health preparedness Web site (https://www.aafp.org/btresponse.xml). The site is being updated continually to ensure that the resources, tools, and links provide accurate, reliable, and timely information. Updated links include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and American Red Cross. A link for providing comments or feedback also is available.