HEALTH

CVS to offer uninsured patients free flu shots

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark is partnering with nonprofit Direct Relief USA to offer up to $5 million in free flu shots to community clinic and health center patients who lack health insurance, the company announced on Wednesday.

Direct Relief USA works with 1,100 clinics and health centers in all 50 states, providing them with free medications and supplies for their low-income and uninsured patients. Most of the facilities in Direct Relief’s network are affiliated with either the National Association of Community Health Centers or the National Association of Free Clinics. CVS Caremark and Direct Relief USA will distribute vouchers redeemable for a free flu shot at any CVS/pharmacy or MinuteClinic to participating clinics and health centers. These facilities will identify uninsured individuals from their existing patient populations in order to provide them with a free flu shot voucher.

Beginning Sept. 20, CVS free flu shot vouchers for the uninsured will be available at participating community clinic and health centers for their existing patients. Names and locations of participating clinics will be made available on Sept. 20.

"With every CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic location providing flu vaccinations this year, we want to make sure that as many people as possible have access to a flu shot, including patients for whom cost may be a barrier," stated Larry Merlo, president and COO of CVS Caremark. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that everyone receive a flu shot this year. We are pleased to partner with Direct Relief USA to help accomplish that goal."

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CMS chief Berwick is driving hard to spur health innovation, report says

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON The recently installed head of the federal Medicare program is pushing hard to promote new and more cost-effective ways to treat patients and improve the nation’s health scorecard.

On Monday, The Boston Globe reported that Donald Berwick, tapped by President Obama in July as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is working to expand health-innovation projects around the country in line with the massive health-reform law enacted earlier this year. Berwick envisions as many as 300 test sites devoted to developing new, integrated models of patient care by physician groups and other health professionals, according to The Globe.

 

Spurring those innovative pilot projects will be billions of dollars allocated by the health-reform bill for a health innovation center, and for the development of health information technology to eliminate waste and promote better decision-making among doctors, pharmacists and other health providers.

 

 

To that end, Medicare will designate provider groups participating in the innovation pilot projects as “accountable care organizations’’ under the program, the newspaper reported. The underlying goal: to replace the costly and increasingly unwieldy fee-for-service model that now dominates such public health programs as Medicare and Medicaid, with “global payments” that reward healthier patient outcomes and coordinated care among physicians and other providers, according to The Globe.

 

 

Berwick, the report noted, is a strong advocate for experimentation in new, outcomes-based models of patient care, and is working to double the size of the innovation center and promote its involvement in new healthcare demonstration projects. Test sites for new collaborative care models will be up and running by the end of 2011, The Globe reported.

 

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Silenor now available by prescription

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN DIEGO Drug maker Somaxon Pharmaceuticals has made its treatment for insomnia available by prescription, the company said Tuesday.

 

Somaxon announced the availability of Silenor (doxepin), which received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in March as a treatment for insomnia characterized by difficulty with sleep maintenance.

 

 

“The commercial availability of Silenor, the first and only prescription product approved for the treatment of sleep maintenance insomnia that is not a controlled substance, is an important milestone for Somaxon and marks the completion of our product launch preparations,” Somaxon president and CEO Richard Pascoe said.

 

 

The company will promote the drug to healthcare providers along with Procter & Gamble.

 

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