PHARMACY

CMS suspends rules for flood victims in Iowa, Indiana

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON In response to the condition of the flood-stricken states of Iowa and Indiana, Health and Human Services secretary Michael Leavitt has declared a public health emergency. This action gives the HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Medicare beneficiaries and their healthcare providers greater flexibility in meeting emergency needs.

Some of the actions that CMS will undertake to help meet the needs of Medicare beneficiaries are: For the Medicare Part D prescription benefit, CMS will ensure that rules that prevent early refills are waived. This will assist those beneficiaries who left prescriptions in evacuated homes or lost their prescription during the evacuation. Beneficiaries in health plans will be allowed to go out of network during this emergency. CMS is working with the health insurance industry to ensure there are no barriers to this service for those in plans. And, CMS will be working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to manage lost, stolen, or left behind Durable Medical Equipment.

“The flooding in Iowa and Indiana is devastating to each individual and to their communities,” Leavitt said. “This designation will allow HHS to immediately assist our beneficiaries and providers in the areas where hospitals and other health care delivery systems have been disrupted. It will help ensure that medical assistance is provided promptly and effectively.”

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Researchers develop online tool for tracking children’s immunizations

BY Drew Buono

ATLANTA Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed an online tool to help parents and pediatricians adjust childhood immunization schedules when one or more vaccinations are missed.

When a child falls behind in the vaccination schedule, doctors must determine when it’s appropriate to give any missed vaccines or future vaccines. This usually requires the creation of a personalized catch-up schedule for each child, something that’s often done while the child sits in the treatment room. The online tool is designed to ensure that missed and future vaccines are given without violating guidelines regarding vaccines and doses.

“Physicians have been telling us for years that they needed a computerized program to tell them when to give vaccines after a child misses scheduled immunizations. Now this tool is available for health care professionals and parents to use, and they are excited to use it,” said Larry Pickering, executive director of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and a collaborator on the project.

When using the tool, a doctor or parent inputs a child’s date of birth and previous immunization dates. The program then creates a personalized schedule of the recommended dates to administer all future vaccines. It offers two options—administer the vaccines as soon as possible or administer the vaccines when recommended.

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HHS awards contracts for speedy flu identification test

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON If the world ever faced an avian influenza pandemic, how would doctors distinguish it from the seasonal flu?

Health and human services department secretary Mike Leavitt announced Thursday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had awarded $12.9 million in contracts to two pharmaceutical firms for the development of tests that could distinguish the common flu from the lethal H5N1 form within three hours.

The two companies are San Diego-based Nanogen, and Gaithersburg, Md.-based Meso Scale Diagnostics, each of which received about $6.5 million for the contracts. The contracts provide funding of up to $10.4 million for Nanogen and $12.1 million for Meso Scale Diagnostics for further developments up to three years.

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