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National Rural Health Association backs Medicare Pharmacy Transparency bill

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Rural Health Association on Wednesday sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., strongly supporting the bill she introduced in March — H.R. 4215, the Medicare Pharmacy Transparency and Fair Auditing Act. The bill helps safeguard patient access to independent community pharmacists and addresses abusive pharmacy auditing practices, while allowing legitimate Medicare Part D anti-fraud oversight to continue.

“With approximately 50% of independent community pharmacies located in towns with populations of 20,000 people or less, preserving access to pharmacy services in rural America is an important reason to support this bipartisan legislation," noted Douglas Hoey, CEO National Community Pharmacists Association, regarding the letter. “The National Rural Health Association is the leading advocate for rural healthcare concerns, so its support is noteworthy," he added. "This common-sense legislation will help ensure that when a pharmacist dispenses the right medication to the right patient at the right time as prescribed by a doctor, it isn’t a punishable offense simply because of a harmless clerical discrepancy. In addition, the bill returns the focus of pharmacy audits to their original intent of uncovering real fraud and requires that any funds collected during an audit be passed back to Medicare and beneficiaries, not retained by the middleman.”
 
In its letter, NRHA argues that the current pharmacy benefit manager business model must be reined in. The letter goes on to explain that “the obstacles faced by healthcare providers and patients in rural areas are vastly different and greater than those in other geographic areas.” As a consequence, the letter concludes, “inadequate access to a community pharmacist can reduce medication adherence and by definition, limits the ability of patients to benefit from the healthcare services provided by community pharmacies.”
 
Audit reforms have been enacted in nearly 20 states on a bipartisan basis, according to NCPA. Most recently, reforms have been enacted in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.

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L’Oréal works to drive awareness of skin cancer risk in skin of color

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK — Beauty company L’Oréal is working to increase awareness that just because a person’s skin may be darker in color does not mean he or she is immune to skin cancer.

“By the year 2050, it is projected that more than half of the U.S. population will be comprised of what is considered today as ethnic minorities,” stated Michele Verschoore, medical director of L’Oréal Research and Innovation. “As experts in photoprotection, it is important for us to increase the awareness of the fact that people of color are not immune to skin cancer.”

To spread the word, L’Oréal has gathered new relevant data on skin cancer and sun protection in skin of color, which will be sent to all U.S. dermatologists.

Studies have consistently shown that people of color are more likely to wait until the disease has reached an advanced stage to visit the dermatologist or don’t visit the dermatologist at all. This is largely because of the common misconceptions about darker skin and skin cancer.

Darker skin does offer some increased protection against ultraviolet radiation, as people with dark skin have a higher melanin and eumelanin (brown-black pigment) content, which, in turn, reduces the risk of skin cancer induced by ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure. However, there is considerable skin color heterogeneity among people of color, and many people aren’t even aware of the risks.

In fact, recent surveys show that:

  • 65% of minority respondents believed they were not at risk for skin cancer;

  • 62% of African-American adult respondents have never worn sunscreen;

  • 31% of minority respondents have performed a self skin check;

  • 17% of minority respondents have gotten a skin check by a dermatologist; and

  • There has been a 3.4% increase in incidence of melanoma among Hispanic women in Florida.

Furthermore, the study from L’Oréal Research & Innovation found that the highest risk of DNA damages was in light to tan skin, which includes most Hispanics and some African-Americans.

“The lack of skin cancer recognition in patients of color is a problem and poses a serious health threat if left untreated,” stated Wendy Roberts, medical director of Desert Dermatology Skin Institute in Rancho Mirage, Calif. “When detected early, skin cancer is highly curable. That’s why people of color need to be aware of their risk and be vigilant about protecting their skin from the sun, as well as seeking help with skin lesions that do not heal.”

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Survey: Parents of newborns intimidated to ask friends, family to get Tdap vaccination

BY Michael Johnsen

SWIFTWATER, Pa. — As health departments across the country report record numbers of pertussis cases, the results of a new survey of American adults released today reveal that most parents aren’t asking adults close to their infants and young children to get an adult whooping cough booster vaccine, even though they do ask them to follow other basic precautions to safeguard their children’s health.

The survey was conducted online in May 2012 by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign, a joint initiative from Sanofi Pasteur and March of Dimes.

The results spotlight that most parents are skipping a critical preventive health step for themselves and their babies, and it’s not because they don’t think it’s important. A large majority of parents with children ages 2 years and younger (83%) believe that vaccination is important for adults in contact with infants and young children to help protect against the spread of pertussis. Yet only 19% reported asking friends and family in close contact with their child to get an adult pertussis vaccination. Although 90% agreed that the health of family/friends/caregivers is an important consideration in order to keep their children healthy and safe, 45% estimated that fewer than half of the adults who come into close contact with their children had received an adult pertussis vaccination, and 26% weren’t sure if anyone had been vaccinated.

Only about 10% of adults have reported receiving an adult pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, according to statistics collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So, while parents should be proactive about knowing the pertussis vaccination status of those in contact with their infants, and asking them to get a booster if they haven’t already, making that simple request makes many parents uncomfortable, according to the survey. More than half (61%) of parents with children ages 2 years and younger said they would feel awkward asking a family member/caregiver to get an adult pertussis vaccine.

"This survey shows we’ve come a long way in raising awareness of the importance of adult pertussis vaccination, yet too many parents still aren’t taking crucial steps to help protect their babies against the dangers of pertussis in the same way they proactively shield them from other serious dangers," stated NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon, who — along with his wife, model Ingrid Vandebosch — is a representative for the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign. "As parents of two, Ingrid and I asked our friends and family to join us in getting an adult pertussis vaccine to help protect our kids against the disease, and we are urging others across the country to do the same."

The survey also looked at how influential family members and healthcare professionals can be in encouraging adults to get a pertussis booster. Among adults who haven’t been vaccinated and don’t have children at home, but who have been in contact with infants younger than 2 years of age in the past five years or expect to be in the next year, nearly half (45%) would consider getting an adult Tdap booster vaccine if a family member asked, and an even greater number, 83% would consider getting one if they were asked by their doctor or other healthcare professional.

Immunity from childhood pertussis vaccinations wears off after about five to 10 years, so even adults immunized as children may no longer be protected and should have an adult Tdap booster, especially if they will be in contact with babies.

Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that is spread through the air by infectious respiratory droplets. It is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis, which is found in the mouth, nose and throat of the person infected with the disease. The milder form of the disease, which usually occurs in adults and older children, is often mistaken for the common cold or bronchitis and can be easily spread. The disease is usually more severe in babies and young children, who will often experience severe coughing that can be followed by a "whooping" sound as they gasp for air. Oftentimes, coughing episodes can be so intense that vomiting follows.

Pertussis also can lead to other serious complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalization and even death. In recent years, about 92% of pertussis deaths have occurred in infants younger than 12 months of age.

Across the United States, 8,159 provisional pertussis cases have been reported to the CDC as of May 5, 2012, representing an 87% increase compared to the same time period in 2011. Pertussis cases reached epidemic levels in Washington state this year, and cases are trending high in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

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