AAFP Emphasizes Communication in Its Updated Breast Cancer Recommendations
In January 2010, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) updated its recommendations for breast cancer screening based on evidence summarized by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which revised its recommendations in November 2009. Following the USPSTF's controversial recommendation against routine mammography screening in women 40 to 49 years of age, the AAFP's updated recommendations stress that family physicians should discuss with all women the potential benefits and harms of screening tests and develop a plan for early detection that minimizes potential harms. These discussions should include information about the evidence regarding each type of screening test, the risk of breast cancer, and individual patient preferences. To help family physicians with these discussions, the AAFP's Commission on Health of the Public and Science is developing evidence-based educational materials that outline the potential harms and benefits of breast cancer screening. For more information, visit https://www.aafp.org/news-now/clinical-care-research/20100115aafp-brca-recs.html.
FamilyDoctor.org Launches Content From Consumer Alliance With The Coca-Cola Co.
On January 12, 2010, the AAFP posted the first patient education content linked to its Consumer Alliance Program on its consumer Web site, FamilyDoctor.org. The content, which is supported by an educational grant from The Coca-Cola Co., includes information on sweeteners and hydration that is designed to help patients make informed nutrition choices. The Healthy Living: Food & Nutrition section of the Web site includes new patient education handouts on sugar, sugar substitutes, and the importance of hydration. According to the AAFP, the information in the handouts have undergone a rigorous review process, and the AAFP has complete control over its development. Professional health writers, physicians, and other health care professionals created the content, and family physician editors, members of the AAFP Commission on Health of the Public and Science, and credentialed consultants with expertise in diet and nutrition have reviewed all of the materials. For more information, visit https://www.aafp.org/news-now/inside-aafp/20100112famdoc-cap-content.html and https://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/healthy.html.
CMS Proposes Medicare Advantage Rule; Groups Urge Congress to Equalize Payment
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed a rule that aims to provide some relief for physicians from the time-consuming policies and directives dispensed by Medicare Advantage organizations. The rule, which was published in late 2009, proposes revisions to the advantage plan and prescription drug benefit programs. In response to the proposed rule, the AAFP, American Medical Association, and more than 80 other professional medical organizations commended the suggested changes in a joint letter to CMS. The medical organizations support CMS' proposals calling for advantage plan choices that differ enough to provide beneficiaries “meaningful options,” and standardized templates in beneficiary communication materials. CMS will review all comments and issue a final rule later this year. In addition, the AAFP has joined more than 100 other organizations in calling on lawmakers to equalize Medicaid and Medicare payment rates as part of any comprehensive health care reform bill passed by Congress. Both the House and Senate health care reform bills would expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income persons, but only the House bill includes a $57 billion provision that would adjust Medicaid payments for primary care to at least 100 percent of Medicare rates. In a letter to House and Senate leaders, the AAFP and 117 other organizations urged Congress to adopt the House provision for primary care Medicaid reimbursement rates, pointing out that Medicaid rates average just 66 percent of Medicare rates for primary care services. For more information, visit https://www.aafp.org/news-now/government-medicine/20100112cms-medcr-advant-rule.html and https://www.aafp.org/news-now/government-medicine/20100113-equal-med.html.
AAFP Members Can Help Haiti Earthquake Victims Through AAFP Foundation Efforts
As many as three million persons are in need of food, water, and medical supplies in the aftermath of the January 12, 2010, earthquake disaster in Haiti. The AAFP Foundation is offering its members the opportunity to support relief organizations' efforts of humanitarian aid and care to victims of the earthquake. “The AAFP Foundation provides a safe and reliable way to ensure your help reaches those in need,” said Craig Doane, executive director of the foundation and AAFP vice president for corporate development. Donations will be used to support the Haiti relief efforts of the AAFP Foundation's partners, Heart to Heart International (HHI) and International Medical Corps (IMC), Doane said. By donating, AAFP members can help HHI send shipments of medications and supplies to Haiti. In a January 13, 2010, news release, HHI said it particularly wants to send medical supplies that address waterborne and airborne illnesses. In addition to medications and supplies, medical care also is needed, and physicians can volunteer through IMC. HHI also is taking the names and contact information of physicians interested in future deployment, who can call HHI directly at 913-764-5200. For more information, visit https://www.aafp.org/news-now/inside-aafp/20100115haiti-relief.html and https://www.aafpfoundation.org/online/foundation/home/programs/humanitarian/disasterrelief.html.
McNeil Recalls More Than 500 Lots of Contaminated OTC Medications
McNeil has recalled more than 500 lots of its over-the-counter (OTC) products, including Benadryl, Rolaids, Motrin, and Tylenol, because of chemical contamination. McNeil said in a January 15, 2010, news release that it has received consumer reports of moldy, musty, or mildew-like odor that, in some cases, was associated with temporary and nonserious gastrointestinal events, including nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. The manufacturer said the products contain trace amounts of the chemical 2,4,6-tribromoanisole, which is a pesticide and flame retardant used to treat wooden pallets. The company's action follows a voluntary recall in December 2009 of Tylenol Arthritis Relief caplets based on the same complaint. Although McNeil said reported adverse events have not been serious, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has leveled harsh criticism at McNeil and its parent company Johnson & Johnson for failing to adequately resolve problems at its manufacturing facility. A complete list of affected products and lot numbers can be found at http://www.mcneilproductrecall.com. For more information, visit https://www.aafp.org/news-now/health-of-the-public/20100118mcneilrecall.html.
MedWatch: FDA Issues Warning About Counterfeit Version of Alli on the Internet
On January 18, 2010, the FDA warned consumers about a counterfeit and potentially harmful version of the OTC weight-loss product Alli in 60-mg capsules (120 count refill kit). Preliminary laboratory tests conducted by Alli's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, revealed that the counterfeit version did not contain orlistat, the active ingredient in Alli, but instead contained the controlled substance sibutramine, which should not be used in certain patient populations or without physician oversight. Based on consumer reports, GlaxoSmithKline determined that the counterfeit product was being sold over the Internet. Health care professionals and consumers are encouraged to report adverse events that may be related to the use of these counterfeit products to the FDA's MedWatch Program. For more information, visit http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm197857.htm.
CDC Estimates H1N1 Vaccine Coverage Results for October to December 2009
To estimate influenza A (H1N1) vaccination coverage for 2009 and provide recommendations for the 2009-2010 influenza season, the CDC analyzed results from the National 2009 H1N1 Flu Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. An early release of the results were published in MMWR online on January 15, 2010. The surveys' results indicated that, as of January 2, 2010, an estimated 20.3 percent of the U.S. population had been vaccinated, with an estimated 29.4 percent of children six months to 18 years of age vaccinated. The CDC recommends that physicians continue efforts for increased vaccination coverage among high-risk persons and offer vaccination to the rest of the U.S. population, including those 65 years and older. For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm59e0115a1.htm?s_cid=mm59e0115a1_e.
Four New Medical Schools Seek to Increase Student Interest in Primary Care Specialties
Answering calls to expand the U.S. physician workforce, four new allopathic medical schools seated their first classes in the fall of 2009. The new medical schools are The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, Pa., the Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in Miami, the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando, and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in El Paso. The schools have implemented various initiatives aimed at introducing students to family medicine and primary care, teaching students about the importance of primary care in the nation's health care system, and boosting interest in practicing in primary care specialties in their regions. They offer programs that give students early clinical experience, place them with families for continuity experiences, or provide extended primary care clerkships. For more information, visit https://www.aafp.org/news-now/resident-student-focus/20100113new-med-schools.html.
— AFP and AAFP NEWS NOW staff