HEALTH

NCPA: Congress’ ‘fiscal cliff’ bill could force independents out of Medicare diabetes business

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — While the "fiscal cliff" bill heads off the most severe tax implications for most Americans, the 25.8 million Americans with diabetes may find this bill a bitter pill to swallow, suggested the National Community Pharmacists Association in a press release issued Wednesday. 

“NCPA strongly opposes language in the legislation that would effectively force many community pharmacists to stop providing diabetes test supplies to Medicare beneficiaries," noted John Coster, SVP government affairs NCPA. "The bill would do this by applying DTS reimbursement rates to local pharmacies that are effectively set by large mail order operations," he said. "NCPA has repeatedly outlined to Congress and Medicare officials the shortcomings in such an approach. Round one of the competitive bid program has validated NCPA’s concerns, including waste in mail order and patients’ strong preference for a face-to-face health care experience with a local provider."

NCPA lobbied Congress to amend the legislation exempting independent pharmacies. 

Not all of the bill is bad, however, NCPA noted. "We commend the temporary delay in the cuts to Medicare and the TRICARE program," Coster said. "In addition, the bill features tax provisions that, when compared to the policies that would otherwise take effect in 2013, would make it easier for family-owned independent community pharmacies to be passed from one generation to the next to continue serving their patients and contributing to their local economies."

 

 

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CDC: Influenza-like illness rates reaching 4.2% nationwide

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — The incidence of influenza continued on an upward trajectory heading into the Christmas holiday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday. Nationwide for the week ending Dec. 22, 4.2% of patient visits reported through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were due to influenza-like illness, above the national baseline of 2.2%. 

New York City and 16 states experienced high ILI activity, primarily across the south, while eight states experienced moderate ILI activity. States along the West Coast reported minimal ILI activity. 

Data collected in ILINet are used to produce a measure of ILI activity by state. Activity levels are based on the percent of outpatient visits in a state due to ILI and are compared to the average percent of ILI visits that occur during spring and fall weeks with little or no influenza virus circulation. Activity levels range from minimal, which would correspond to ILI activity from outpatient clinics being below the average, to high, which would correspond to ILI activity from outpatient clinics being much higher than average.

ILI is defined as fever (temperature of 100°F or greater) and cough and/or sore throat. Region specific data is available here. 

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Biocodex: Yeast-based probiotics can be used in conjunction with antibiotics

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN BRUNO, Calif. — Biocodex last week sought to set the record straight regarding the use of probiotics with antibiotics. 

"There is a common myth that probiotics can’t be used with antibiotics," stated Kerry Neville, a registered dietitian in Seattle. "In fact, there are different probiotic options available that can be beneficial before, during, and after antibiotic use, like Florastor."

While it is commonly agreed that probiotic supplements can be a beneficial addition to the daily diet, contradictory messages may leave consumers confused about how to incorporate a probiotic into their routine, Biocodex noted. "This is particularly true for those looking to support an immune system that has been weakened by illness or antibiotic use," the company stated. "Use of a yeast-based probiotic can benefit the body during and after antibiotic use."

Because antibiotics attack all bacteria, they often upset the balance of the body by depleting the body’s naturally existing good bacteria in addition to any invasive bacteria. This can leave the body more vulnerable to infection. "While there may be concerns surrounding using a bacteria-based probiotic and simultaneous use of antibiotics, because yeast-based probiotics are not compromised, they can continue to support digestive health even when it is weakened from antibiotics," Neville said. "Incorporation of a yeast-based probiotic consistently supports your body before, during and after illness and antibiotic use.

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