June 12, 2010
$25 Million in Federal Grant Monies for Programs to Reduce Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
The WSJ reports that $25 million dollars in grant monies is being distributed to three-year demonstration projects designed to reduce medical malpractice lawsuits. The grant money is part of a “compromise offered by President Barack Obama last year in response to calls for an overhaul of the malpractice system.”
During last year's health debate, Republicans criticized the president for not addressing the rising cost of medical liability lawsuits as part of his sweeping health overhaul legislation. The final health bill passed in March included only limited measures aimed at curbing such lawsuits.
In his joint address to Congress last September, Mr. Obama asked the Department of Health and Human Services to take action, separate from the broader legislation, to reduce malpractice costs.
The result is a slate of demonstration programs aimed at reducing preventable injuries, improving communication betweens doctors and patients, ensuring patients are compensated more quickly and reducing liability insurance premiums.
A seven-member group that includes health-care systems, a state court and a state health department will conduct three-year demonstration projects. One is a $3 million grant to the New York State Unified Court System that will funnel obstetric and surgery patients toward an alternative dispute resolution system overseen by the court. Other demonstrations will disclose medical errors to patients as early as possible, with the hope of minimizing the chances of a lawsuit.
A smaller set of one-year grants will go to 13 states and health-care systems. Among other things, they will go toward developing evidence-based guidelines to curb lawsuits, reducing patient suicides and developing a legislative proposal that will define a legal standard of care for health-care providers.
June 11, 2010
A Pharmacy Feud Erupts Disrupting Consumer Choice
On Monday, Walgreen, which operates about 7,500 drugstores across the country, announced it would not participate as a prescription drug provider for customers in new drug benefit plans administered by CVS Caremark. CVS Caremark, besides operating more than 7,000 of its own drugstores, is also a leading provider of prescription drug benefit plans that many employers offer workers and their dependents. On Wednesday, CVS Caremark countered the Walgreen move. The company said that anyone now enrolled in its drug benefit plans would have to stop filling their prescriptions at Walgreen within a month.
Smaller drugstore operators had already raised antitrust concerns against CVS Caremark, citing potential conflicts caused by its dual role as a pharmacy chain and a drug plan administrator. Independent pharmacists argue CVS Caremark has limited consumers’ choices of where to refill their prescriptions.
“When a patient does not have the right to choose the health care provider, in this case the pharmacy that they choose and trust, that’s not good,” said Joseph H. Harmison, the president of the National Community Pharmacists Association, a group representing nearly 23,000 independent community pharmacies and pharmacy chains. “Some people who feel intimidated by physicians turn to their local pharmacists for medical advice about their prescriptions, he said. “The pharmacist is often the person a patient will wait to ask the questions to,” he said.
Last May, his association filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that CVS Caremark had used its dominant position in the pharmaceutical service industry to eliminate consumer choice and drive consumers away from competing pharmacies. The F.T.C. confirmed Wednesday that it was investigating CVS Caremark, but Richard A. Feinstein, the director of the agency’s bureau of competition said the commission would not comment on the subject of the probe. Attorneys general in 24 states are conducting a similar investigation, according to CVS Caremark.
June 9, 2010
Pesticide Exposure May Contribute to ADHD, Study Finds
An article published in the journal Pediatrics provides evidence that exposure to organophosphate pesticides may be associated with increased risk of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. The study focused on 1,139 children from the general U.S. population and measured pesticide levels in their urine.The authors conclude that exposure to organophosphate pesticides, at levels common among U.S. children, may contribute to a diagnosis of ADHD. See also CNN Health.
"Previous studies have shown that exposure to some organophosphate compounds cause hyperactivity and cognitive deficits in animals," says lead author Maryse F. Bouchard of the University of Montreal Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and the Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center. "Our study found that exposure to organophosphates in developing children might have effects on neural systems and could contribute to ADHD behaviors, such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity."
This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.The study was authored by Maryse F. Bouchard of the University of Montreal and Harvard University, David C. Bellinger, Robert O. Wright, and Marc G. Weisskopf of Harvard University.