PHARMACY

House Dems launch new push for widespread adoption of health IT

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel has introduced legislation to spur the widespread and rapid adoption of health information technology and electronic patient recordkeeping as part of the economic stimulus package.

Rangel, the New York Democrat who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is calling for the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to advance HIT, according to a report from The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper. A separate report from The Wall Street Journal pegs the total long-term cost of HIT adoption at $20 billion.

One key element of the Rangel bill: incentive payments from Medicare totaling $41,000 over five years for private-practice and nonhospital physicians who speedily adopt electronic health recordkeeping technology, and additional Medicare incentives for hospitals that embrace the technology.

The bill also would beef up patient-privacy provisions beyond current HIPAA standards, a proposal that has raised concerns among pharmacy operators who assert that it would hamper current pharmacy practices and patient relationships.

In response to the House bill, National Association of Chain Drug Stores President and CEO Steve Anderson,  sent a letter (click here to read entire letter http://www.nacds.org/user-assets/pdfs/newsrelease/2009/1_21_HITPrivacyLettertoHill.pdf ) to key Congressional leaders, commending lawmakers’ efforts to incorporate provisions for the adoption of health information technology (HIT) into the economic stimulus proposal as a cost-savings solution and to help promote better public health, but expressed serious concerns over certain privacy provisions that would in effect expand HIPPA regulations.

“We have strong concerns that this legislation unfairly penalizes providers who have already adopted health information technology (HIT) by requiring new, costly and operationally burdensome mandates that stand to interfere with patient care activities,” Anderson wrote in the letter. “Many of the proposed provisions will not stimulate economic activity in the health sector, and could serve as a disincentive to provider adoption of HIT.” 

Noting its ultimate support for the development of an integrated healthcare IT infrastructure — in particular, its early adoption of electronic prescribing technology — NACDS urged lawmakers to take a more cautious, and studied approach to HIT, and certainly not to rush ahead to make it part of the current stimulus package. “We believe these complex privacy issues must be fully aired through hearings and discussion that legislating through regular order would provide,” Anderson stated. “Consensus has yet to be reached among all relevant stakeholders on how best to address these complex privacy issues. We strongly believe it would be premature for Congress to legislate in this area that remains highly contentious.”

The legislation introduced in the Ways & Means Committee includes, among other provisions, $250 million for an agency set up to coordinate national HIT rollout and standards, according to The Hill. That agency, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, would become a permanent fixture within the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, with expanded authority, and would include a federal officer to oversee patient-privacy issues.

The Rangel bill also would provide $300 million to support electronic data exchange technology, grants to states to promote HIT and $900 million for Medicare and Medicaid to fund the physician incentive program.

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Teva Pharmaceuticals and Lonza Group join to market biosimilars

BY Alaric DeArment

Jerusalem As the possibility of a bill to allow Food and Drug Administration approval of biosimilars looms in Congress, two companies are already taking the initiative.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries announced Tuesday a partnership with Lonza Group to establish a joint venture to develop, manufacture and market biosimilars. The two companies did not specify where they would market the drugs.”We had identified biosimilars as a major growth driver for Teva in our long-term strategy and have been augmenting our knowledge base, capabilities and infrastructure to position Teva as a leader in this market,” Teva president and CEO Shlomo Yanai said in a statement. “This strategic partnership bolsters our biologics capabilities.”Teva, the world’s largest maker of generic drugs, already markets biosimilars in Europe, along with generic manufacturers Sandoz and Dr. Reddy’s, and pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co., Eli Lilly & Co. and AstraZeneca have recently announced the creation of biosimilars divisions.Financial terms of the deal between Lonza and Teva were not disclosed.

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Lawmakers concerned international drug manufacturing presents risk of counterfeits

BY Alaric DeArment

New York Concern has arisen about the manufacturing of ingredients for drugs in other countries, especially antibiotics like penicillin, according to published reports.

Drug manufacturing has mostly moved to countries such as India and China, but some lawmakers and analysts have said it increases the risks of counterfeits and bioterrorism.Already, more than 200 Americans have experienced dangerous drug reactions since November 2007 after taking counterfeit versions of the blood-thinning drug heparin manufactured in China containing a toxic chemical that merely mimics heparin. Last November, the Food and Drug Administration confiscated 11 lots of counterfeit heparin from a company based in Cincinnati. 

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