PHARMACY

Florida to offer low-cost, no-frills insurance to uninsured

BY Drew Buono

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Florida Governor Charlie Crist has signed a bill aimed at providing low-cost health coverage to the uninsured by allowing the sale of stripped-down insurance policies, according to The New York Times.

His initiative, which both houses of the Republican-controlled Legislature approved unanimously, enables insurers to create bare-bones policies that the governor hopes will sell for no more than $150 a month. That is about 60 percent less than the average cost of a policy for a single person in Florida, according to state insurance regulators.

The policies would be available to any Floridian 19 to 64 who has been uninsured for at least six months and who is not eligible for public insurance. In a critical provision, insurers would be prohibited from rejecting applicants based on age or health status.

To make the policies affordable, Florida will allow insurers to offer policies that do not include many of the 52 services that standard policies must currently cover, like acupuncture and podiatry. The state added a mandate on Tuesday, when Crist signed a bill requiring coverage for treating autism.

The low-cost plans have to include preventive services, office visits, screenings, surgery, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment and diabetes supplies.

Some options offered by insurers have to include catastrophic and hospital coverage. But an insurance company could, for instance, choose to limit the number of days of hospitalization it will cover or place a dollar cap on reimbursing certain services.

The new law also enables parents to cover children up to age 30 on their policies, raising the age from 25.

Crist acknowledged that the low-cost plans would not provide “Cadillac coverage.” But he said he was optimistic that uninsured Floridians would buy the plans after they are able to analyze their costs and benefits, starting early next year.

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Drug producers give to help disaster victims

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK Drug makers all over the world are working with international relief groups to send cash and medical supplies to victims of the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in China, according to the Associated Press.

Among the donations:

  • Merck is giving about $500,000 in cash for Chinese victims, including two-to-one matches of donations from U.S. employees, plus $500,000 worth of antibiotics, heart medicines and vaccines, including shots to prevent infectious diseases.
  • Pfizer has given about $700,000 in cash and another $700,000 worth of medical products to earthquake victims in China, and has employees volunteering with the Red Cross there. Employees have given another $128,000 for China, which Pfizer is matching.
  • Abbott Laboratories is giving $250,000 for aid in Myanmar and is sending about $250,000 worth of adult and pediatric antibiotics and vitamins there, some of which arrived late last week; in China, it’s giving $1 million, roughly half cash and half in antibiotics and adult and pediatric nutrition products.
  • Baxter International has given $150,000 to help victims in Myanmar and is preparing to supply hundreds of thousands of intravenous solutions to hard-hit areas there.
  • Johnson & Johnson has given cash donations, consumer health care products and medicines to the Red Cross Society of China and plans to give cash to groups working in Myanmar.
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb is donating at least $500,000, mostly for China, where it also is sending 10,000 one-week supplies of antibiotics, infant and child nutritional products, and employee donations of blankets, clothing and camping equipment.
  • GlaxoSmithKline has given about $1.4 million for China and $100,000 for Myanmar.
  • Roche has sent 53,000 doses of an antibiotic to the Sichuan province.
  • Wyeth has donated antibiotics, infant formula, Centrum vitamins and an undisclosed amount of cash to China.
  • Eli Lilly is sending $300,000 in cash and $800,000 worth of medicines, mainly antibiotics, most of it to groups operating in China. It may later send insulin and mental health medicines.

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Research links ED and diabetes with later heart conditions

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON According to new findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, men with type 2 diabetes who have problems maintaining an erection may foretell heart trouble, as reported by Reuters.

In one study, Italian researchers found that among 291 men with type 2 diabetes, those who also had erectile dysfuncion had twice the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular complication over the next four years.

At the start of the study, all of the men had had evidence of “silent” heart disease—meaning they had plaque buildup in their arteries on imaging tests, but no heart disease symptoms, such as chest pain. Having ED seemed to pinpoint those men who were at particular risk of a complication. There was some good news though: Taking cholesterol-lowering statins appeared to reduce the risks associated with ED by one-third, according to the researchers.

In the second study, Hong Kong researchers found that among diabetic men with no indications of heart disease at the outset, those with ED were 58 percent more likely to die of heart disease, or have a heart attack or other non-fatal cardiac “event.”

“Erectile dysfunction is an important warning sign of future adverse heart events or even death,” study chief Peter Chun-Yip Tong, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Reuters Health. The main reason, he explained, is that ED is an early manifestation of the blood vessel damage caused by diabetes and other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure.

Tong recommended that all men with diabetes tell their doctors if they begin to have problems getting or maintaining an erection. They can then have a comprehensive assessment of their cardiovascular risk factors, such as measurements of their blood pressure, cholesterol, waist size and kidney function, and work on getting those under control.

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