PHARMACY

State senator announces plan to insure all of New Jersey’s children

BY Adam Kraemer

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. New Jersey State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, announced Wednesday a plan through which any family in the state with uninsured children will be able to afford health insurance, according to published reports.

Vitale, chairman of the Senate health committee, and Democratic Gov. John Corzine discussed the proposal, an agreement between the state and Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey, calling it the first step in a move towards universal health care across the state.

The governor told reporters he “absolutely believes that we are on a step-by-step process to get ourselves into position” to insure all residents.

Health experts at Rutgers University estimate there are between 50,000 and 60,000 uninsured children whose families are not eligible for FamilyCare or Medicaid because they earn too much money, but would be eligible for the new program, state officials said. The program will allow families to pay $137 per month per child for up to three children to enroll, with a maximum of $411, and will cost the state nothing, according to Vitale.

“Any family that has a child uninsured can participate in this program,’’ Velez said. “If you are a parent, this is one of the biggest stressors—not to be insured,” said Jennifer Velez, human services commissioner.

Under the plan, families will get the same services offered under the state’s lower-income FamilyCare program, including immunizations, hospitalization, lab tests, X-rays, prescription drugs and dental and mental health services. “We’re trying to make sure that our children start healthy, stay healthy, and that’s what this is all about,” Corzine said.

Vitale said his plan has always called for insuring children first, then focusing on the others who lack health insurance. “This is really just the beginning,” Vitale said.

The news comes on the heels of a United States Senate vote Tuesday to extend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program until March 2009. New Jersey’s plan is expected to go into effect in January 2008.

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Mylan, Forest get FDA approval of Bystolic for hypertension

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration has approved Mylan and Forest Labs’ new drug, nebivolol, for the treatment of high blood pressure. Forest will market the drug under the prescription name Bystolic.

Nearly 1-in-3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure, also called hypertension, which can increase the risks for stroke, heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure. “High blood pressure is often called the ‘silent killer’ because it usually has no symptoms until it causes damage to the body,” said Douglas Throckmorton, the FDA’s deputy director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Bystolic offers a new treatment option for people who need to control their high blood pressure.”

More than 2,000 people received Bystolic during clinical trials. The drug’s efficacy was similar to that of other approved beta blockers, the FDA said. The most common reported side effects were headache, fatigue, dizziness and diarrhea.

On Dec. 2 of this year, Forest and Mylan had said that final approval was contingent upon resolution of manufacturing deficiencies at a plant in Belgium.

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Genzyme gets expanded approval for Thyrogen from FDA

BY Drew Buono

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. The Food and Drug Administration has granted expanded approval for Genzyme’s thyroid cancer drug Thyrogen, according to published reports.

The new indication allows for Thyrogen (thyrotrophin) to be used in combination with radioiodine, a radioactive iodine used to treat thyroid cancer, to destroy the remaining thyroid tissue in patients who have had their cancerous thyroids removed.

Thyrogen was initially approved in the U.S. in 1998 for use as a diagnostic tool in the management of patients being tested for the recurrence of well-differentiated thyroid cancer. The drug helps increase the sensitivity of testing while allowing patients to avoid the potentially debilitating symptoms of thyroid hormone withdrawal.

“This new indication extends the significant benefits of Thyrogen to patients during their initial treatment for thyroid cancer, in addition to its current use in follow-up diagnostic procedures to detect recurrence,” said Mike Heslop, senior vice president and general manager of Genzyme’s endocrine business.

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