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HHS OIG — Ensuring the Integrity of Medicare Part D

July 16, 2015 Comments off

Ensuring the Integrity of Medicare Part D
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General

In the 9 years since Part D began, OIG has produced a wide range of investigations, audits, evaluations, and legal guidance related to Part D program integrity. This work has resulted in the prosecution of individuals accused of defrauding Part D, as well as the identification of systemic program vulnerabilities that raise concerns related to both inappropriate payments and quality of care. OIG has made recommendations to strengthen Part D program integrity, and progress has been made. However, Part D remains vulnerable to fraud, as evidenced by ongoing investigations. OIG has prepared this portfolio to document key progress in addressing Part D program vulnerabilities and to highlight issues that need improvement.

See also: Questionable Billing and Geographic Hotspots Point to Potential Fraud and Abuse in Medicare Part D

One Nation, Under Sedation: Medicare Paid for Nearly 40 Million Tranquilizer Prescriptions in 2013

July 15, 2015 Comments off

One Nation, Under Sedation: Medicare Paid for Nearly 40 Million Tranquilizer Prescriptions in 2013
Source: Pro Publica

In 2012, Medicare’s massive prescription drug program didn’t spend a penny on popular tranquilizers such as Valium, Xanax and Ativan.

The following year, it doled out more than $377 million for the drugs.

While it might appear that an epidemic of anxiety swept the nation’s Medicare enrollees, the spike actually reflects a failed policy initiative by Congress.

More than a decade ago, when lawmakers created Medicare’s drug program, called Part D, they decided not to pay for anti-anxiety medications. Some of these drugs, known as benzodiazepines, had been linked to abuse and an increased risk of falls and fractures among the elderly, who make up most of the Medicare population.

But doctors didn’t stop prescribing the drugs to Medicare enrollees. Patients just found other ways to pay for them. When Congress later reversed the payment policy under pressure from patient groups and medical societies, it swiftly became clear that a huge swath of Medicare’s patients were already using the drugs despite the lack of coverage.

In 2013, the year Medicare started covering benzodiazepines, it paid for nearly 40 million prescriptions, a ProPublica analysis of recently released federal data shows. Generic versions of the drugs — alprazolam (which goes by the trade name of Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan) and clonazepam (Klonopin) — were among the top 32 most-prescribed medications in Medicare Part D that year.

Big Pharma’s Hidden Hand In Rise of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

July 15, 2015 Comments off

Big Pharma’s Hidden Hand In Rise of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs
Source: Common Dreams

From the World Health Organization to the National Academy of Sciences, scientists are warning that rising antibiotic resistance poses a public health threat across the world. Now, a new report from consumer advocacy group Sum Of Us examines an often-overlooked factor behind this crisis: the complicity of pharmaceutical giants in the dangerous dumping of drug waste throughout the supply chain.

Irresponsible use of antibiotics—in human medicine and factory farming—has reportedly led to the rise of antimicrobial-resistant superbugs that threaten our ability to treat common infection.

The report Bad Medicine…examines antibiotic production from start to finish, revealing that some of the most well-known drug corporations are fueling the global health problem of antibiotic resistance.

Effects of Hormone Therapy on Cognition and Mood in Recently Postmenopausal Women: Findings from the Randomized, Controlled KEEPS–Cognitive and Affective Study

July 14, 2015 Comments off

Effects of Hormone Therapy on Cognition and Mood in Recently Postmenopausal Women: Findings from the Randomized, Controlled KEEPS–Cognitive and Affective Study
Source: PLoS Medicine

In the KEEPS-Cog trial, 220 healthy recently postmenopausal women took an estrogen pill every day and a progesterone pill for the first 12 days of each month, 211 women wore an estradiol patch (transdermal estradiol) and took a progesterone pill for the first 12 days of each month, and 262 women received placebo patches and pills for up to four years (the average follow-up was a little less than three years). The researchers assessed the trial participants for their overall cognitive health using an instrument called the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination, for four specific cognitive functions using several established instruments, for depression symptoms using the Beck Depression Inventory, and for mood using the Profile of Mood States instrument at baseline and at 18, 36, and 48 months. Statistical analysis of the data collected indicates that, during the trial, there were no treatment-related effects on cognition or depression symptoms. However, women treated with estrogen pills and progesterone (but not those treated with estradiol patches and progesterone) showed improvements in some mood symptoms compared to women in the placebo group.

ACPA Resource Guide To Chronic Pain Medication & Treatment — 2014 Edition

June 24, 2015 Comments off

ACPA Resource Guide To Chronic Pain Medication & Treatment — 2014 Edition (PDF)
Source: American Chronic Pain Association

The American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) advocates a multi-modal strategy for dealing with chronic pain. The ACPA focuses on pain management skills and self-help strategies that individuals can use with the approval of their healthcare providers.

The ACPA considers the use of medication and other treatments to be a matter for individuals to determine in conjunction with their healthcare provider. The ACPA takes no position on medical treatment choices. Thus, information the ACPA provides about medical care is educational and informative only.

The ACPA Resource Guide to Chronic Pain Medication & Treatment is an unbiased consensus document that combines practical clinical ex perience and the most recent scientific information.

Federal Guidelines for Opioid Treatment Programs

May 29, 2015 Comments off

Federal Guidelines for Opioid Treatment Programs
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Provides updated guidelines for the operation of opioid treatment programs (OTPs). Covers patient assessment, treatment planning, medication-assisted treatment (methadone and buprenorphine), overdose and relapse prevention, and recovery care.

Medications for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Brief Guide

May 22, 2015 Comments off

Medications for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Brief Guide
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Provides guidance for the use of medication-assisted treatment for alcoholism and alcohol abuse in clinical practice. Summarizes approved medications and discusses screening and patient assessment, treatment planning, and patient monitoring.

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