HEALTH

Save Flexible Spending Plans lobbying FSA reform

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON A lobbying group representing employers and insurance companies on Thursday issued a statement criticizing the Senate healthcare-reform bill for including a provision that would discontinue coverage of over-the-counter medicines through flexible spending accounts.

“It is disappointing that the Senate is determined to fund healthcare reform by restricting access to flexible spending accounts, a valuable benefit relied upon by more than 35 million Americans to help hold down healthcare costs,” stated Joe Jackson, chairman of Save Flexible Spending Plans and CEO of benefits provider WageWorks. “Severely curtailing the use of FSAs will not only force participants to pay more in healthcare costs, it flies in the face of President [Barack] Obama’s pledge to not raise taxes on the middle class.”

According to the group, most FSA participants are middle income, earning approximately $55,000 annually. Individuals and families with chronic illnesses typically receive the most benefit from FSAs, incurring annual out-of-pocket expenses averaging $4,398 per year, the group claimed, citing the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found. Approximately 44% of Americans have one or more chronic conditions, SFSP stated.

SFSP is lobbying for more than just reinstatement of OTCs as part of FSAs, the group is also calling for an increase of the $2,500 cap on FSA contributions. “Failing to adjust the cap for inflation will cause the value of a $2,500 FSA to plummet to less than half that amount within a decade,” the association stated.

Save Flexible Spending Plans is a national grassroots advocacy organization that protects against the restricted use of flexible spending accounts in healthcare reform efforts. The campaign is sponsored by the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation a nonprofit organization dedicated to the maintenance and expansion of private employee benefit programs on a tax-advantaged basis.

The organization has two driving missions — first to represent and promote flexible compensation programs through effective lobbying, and second to provide information on flexible compensation programs to national opinion leaders and the general public.

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HEALTH

P&G announces voluntary recall of nasal spray

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI Procter & Gamble on Thursday voluntarily recalled three lots of its Vicks Sinex nasal spray in three countries: England, Germany and the United States.

The company said it is taking this precautionary step after finding the bacteria B. cepacia in a small amount of product made at its plant in Gross Gerau, Germany. There have been no reports of illness. However, the bacteria could cause serious infections for individuals with a compromised immune system, or those with chronic lung conditions, such as cystic fibrosis. B. cepacia poses little medical risk to healthy individuals.

P&G detected this problem during routine quality control at the plant and promptly took action, the company stated. The company’s analysis to date shows this problem is limited to a single batch of raw material mixture involving three lots of product.

In the United States, the lot number of the products is 9239028831 representing Vicks Sinex Vapospray 12-Hour Decongestant Ultra Fine Mist, 15-ml., nasal spray. The lot number is listed on both the outer carton and the bottle. P&G said it found the bacteria B. cepacia in a small amount of product from U.S. lot 9239028831 and is conducting testing on the U.K. and German lots that have been produced from the same batch of raw material mixture.

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FDA takes action against Web sites selling unapproved, misbranded drugs

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday completed a coordinated weeklong international effort, called the International Internet Week of Action, which is intended to curb illegal actions involving medical products.

During the effort, the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, in conjunction with the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and the Office of Regulatory Affairs, Office of Enforcement, targeted 136 Web sites that appeared to be engaged in the illegal sale of unapproved or misbranded drugs to U.S. consumers. None of the Web sites are for pharmacies in the United States or Canada.

The agency issued 22 warning letters to the operators of these Web sites and notified Internet service providers and domain name registrars that the Web sites were selling products in violation of U.S. law. In many cases, because of these violations, Internet service providers and domain name registrars may have grounds to terminate the Web sites and suspend the use of domain names.

“The FDA works in close collaboration with our regulatory and law enforcement counterparts in the United States and throughout the world to protect the public,” stated FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. “Many U.S. consumers are being misled in the hopes of saving money by purchasing prescription drugs over the Internet from illegal pharmacies. Unfortunately, these drugs are often counterfeit, contaminated or unapproved products, or contain an inconsistent amount of the active ingredient. Taking these drugs can pose a danger to consumers.”

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