Commission Proposal Could Increase Need for Prescription Assistance
Family physicians’ knowledge of prescription assistance programs will become invaluable to their Medicaid-eligible patients if a recommendation by the Medicaid Advisory Commission of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) takes effect. The commission recommended that Medicaid establish a tiered payment system that would charge more for brand-name and less for generic prescription drugs. A recent report contained six recommendations that, taken together, would eliminate $11 billion in Medicaid spending over a five-year period. A tiered copayment for prescriptions would save $2 billion over five years, according to the commission report. Patients would be encouraged to use “preferred” or generic drugs instead of higher-priced brand-name drugs. Some commissioners were concerned that patients with severe disabilities or multiple chronic conditions may require a specific mix of medications and often cannot use generic drugs, according to Kevin Burke, the American Academy of Family Physicians’ (AAFP’s) director of government relations. A partial solution in such a scenario is to direct these to prescription assistance programs, said Burke. Among program options is Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a program that offers patients with lower incomes help with purchasing about 2,500 brand name drugs. Additional information about this program is available online at https://www.pparx.org/Intro.php.
NIH Offers $35,000 in Annual Student Loan Repayment
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is accepting applications for its five loan repayment programs. The NIH loan repayment programs, which repay up to $35,000 annually per physician for qualified educational debt, are available to health care professionals in the areas of clinical research, clinical research for persons from disadvantaged backgrounds, contraception and infertility research, health disparities, and pediatric research. The programs also provide coverage for federal and state tax liabilities. To qualify, applicants must have a doctoral-level degree, devote 50 percent or more of their time (i.e., 20 hours per week based on a 40-hour work week) to research funded by a domestic nonprofit organization or government entity (federal, state, or local), and have educational loan debt of at least 20 percent of their institutional base salary. Applicants also must be U.S. citizens, permanent U.S. residents, or U.S. nationals to be eligible. Applications must be completed by December 1, 2005. Additional information, including an online application, is available at http://www.lrp.nih.gov.
Conference to Examine Drug Research in Minority Populations
Physicians wanting to learn more about drug abuse research and to discuss prevention and treatment options for minority populations will be able to do both at the National Institute on Drug Abuse Health Disparities Conference, October 24 to 26 in Atlanta. “Bridging Science and Culture to Improve Drug Abuse Research in Minority Communities” will cover relevant topics including: genetics research; health disparities; substance abuse pharmacology, treatment, and prevention; the criminal justice system; community anti-drug abuse efforts; and more. Conference attendees will learn about recent drug abuse research findings in epidemiology, neuroscience, and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome issues in minority and other populations. Participants also will be able to discuss promising prevention, treatment, and services programs. The conference is open to all national, state, and community-based health care professionals, as well as to others interested in drug abuse and addiction issues. Additional information is available at http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/aug2005/nida-30.htm.
Racial Disparity Abates Among Medicare Recipients
More black Medicare enrollees are being screened for breast cancer and treated for diabetes or heart disease, according to a study recently published in the Aug. 18, 2005, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, found that the proportion of blacks with diabetes who were enrolled in Medicare managed care plans who reported having their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels checked rose 31 percent between 1999 and 2003. The proportion of blacks with diabetes who achieved control of their LDL levels rose 46 percent in the same period. Although white Medicaid recipients also improved in the same areas, the gains made by blacks narrowed the overall racial discrepancies in treatment from 9 percent in 1999 to 2 percent in 2003 for LDL testing and from 13 percent to 7 percent for LDL control for the same period.
SAMHSA Reports Fewer Cigarettes Sold to Minors
Retailers continue to reduce sales of tobacco to children younger than 18 years, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The national retailer violation rate dropped to 12.0 percent in reports submitted by states in 2005, down from 12.8 percent reported in 2004 and 40.1 percent since the annual tobacco retailer inspections began in 1996. The results of the most recent survey of inspections show that every state except Kansas achieved the legislative goal of retailer sales of cigarettes to minors of no more than 20 percent. Kansas is committing additional state funds for tobacco enforcement as an alternative to losing part of its SAMHSA block grant funding, as specified in the law. In addition, 41 states achieved a retailer violation of no more than 15 percent. In 21 states, the retailer violation rate was 10 percent or below. The findings are based on reports submitted by states in response to federal law established in 1992 restricting access to tobacco by children younger than 18 years. The retailer violation rate is based on unannounced state inspections of cigarette retailers.
NINDS Launches Stroke Awareness Video for Hispanics
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) has released a Spanish-language video to educate Hispanic communities nationwide about stroke prevention and treatment. The video provides information about stroke prevention and treatment through stories of three Hispanic stroke survivors. Physicians who would like a single free copy of the video should call 1–800–352–9424 (ask for a Spanish language information specialist). Additional information about stroke prevention and treatment and about the NINDS is available online at http://www.ninds.nih.gov.
STFM Seeks Award Nominations
The Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) is accepting nominations for awards that will be presented during its spring conference, which is scheduled to be held April 26 to 30, 2006, in San Francisco. The awards include the Research Paper Award, which goes to the best research paper published by an STFM member in a peer-reviewed journal between July 1, 2004, and June 30, 2005; and the Curtis Hames Research Award, which honors members whose careers exemplify dedication to research in family medicine. Additional information, including nomination forms, is available online at http://www.stfm.org/awards/awardhub.html. The deadline for nominations is Nov. 11.