Following passage of bill, many more doctors expected to e-prescribe
WASHINGTON Under H.R. 6331, doctors will receive financial incentives to switch to e-prescribing, according to Reuters. Only about 6 percent of U.S. doctors currently e-prescribe, even as more than 70 percent of retail and mail order pharmacies are able to handle e-prescriptions.
“We hope it will be like going from a horse and buggy to a bullet train, making patient safety and the efficiency of the system enormously improved,” said Dr. Steven Stack, a board member of the American Medical Association.
“Prescriptions will be instantly transmitted to the pharmacist, hopefully ready when the patient arrives. And technology will hopefully help to avoid unintended consequences from drug-to-drug interactions or allergies. It also definitely eliminates physician handwriting as a problem,” Stack said.
President Bush vetoed the legislation on the government’s Medicare health insurance program that contained the e-prescribing incentives on Tuesday, but the House of Representatives and Senate immediately voted to override his veto and enact the measure.
The bill raises Medicare payments to doctors who e-prescribe, with a 2 percent bonus in 2009 and 2010, a 1 percent bonus in 2011 and 2012 and a 0.5 percent bonus in 2013.
The measure will also penalize doctors who do not e-prescribe, with a 1 percent Medicare payment penalty in 2012, a 1.5 percent penalty in 2013, and 2 percent in 2014 and thereafter.
BMS settles with EPA over environmental issues
NEW YORK Bristol-Myers Squibb has agreed to resolve Clean Air Act violations by reducing its emissions of ozone-depleting refrigerants at multiple facilities, paying about $3.65 million to upgrade some facilities.
The company’s settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency requires it to retire or retrofit 17 industrial refrigeration units by July 2009 at facilities in Mt. Vernon and Evansville, Ind.; Hopewell, N.J.; and Humacao and Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, the EPA said.
The units use hydrochlorofluorocarbons as refrigerants in the industrial process or in air conditioners. BMS agreed to change the units to use only non-ozone-depleting refrigerants, the EPA said.
The settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, also requires the company to retire two comfort-cooling units at its New Brunswick, N.J., plant and connect the air conditioners to the company’s new centralized refrigeration system. The new system uses water-chilled coolers to minimize the use of chemical agents.
The company also must take steps to ensure compliance with EPA regulations at 13 of its facilities and pay $127,000 in fines. It also must submit three annual reports to each EPA region describing actions it has taken to comply with the settlement.
Following an EPA information request concerning its Evansville, Indiana, facility, BMS voluntarily audited 25 other facilities and reported potential violations. According to the EPA, the audit found potential violations at facilities in Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Puerto Rico.
BMS said it will continue to monitor all sites.
Vical bird flu vaccine successful in phase I
SAN DIEGO A phase I study by Vical has found that its vaccine against avian influenza can protect against the virus, the company announced Thursday.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled study examined 100 volunteers ages 18 to 45 who received two injections of the vaccine and found that 50 to 67 percent of patients receiving 0.5mg and 1mg doses of the vaccine had immune responses that could protect against the H5N1 strain of avian flu.
The vaccine is made from DNA derived from plasmids, small pieces of genetic material, and designed to provoke an immune response.
H5N1 originated in Asia and spread to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Of 385 people infected, 243 have died. Experts fear it could mutate into a form transmissible between humans and cause a global pandemic that would kill millions.