Here’s the latest health news for you this weekend.
National Influenza Vaccination Week January 10-16, 2010
This week was the National Flu Vaccination Week and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a nationwide effort to encourage more Americans to get the H1N1 flu vaccine.
According to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
“This is a challenging flu season for millions of Americans and their families, and it’s not over yet. The H1N1 vaccine is safe, effective and the best way to prevent the flu. We urge all Americans to protect themselves and their families by getting the H1N1 flu vaccine.”
FDA Approves New Drug for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The US FDA approved Actemra (tocilizumab) earlier this month, a drug to treat adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who have not adequately responded to or cannot tolerate other approved drug classes for the said disease. The status of Actemra as a “last recourse” therapy for RA is due to certain side effects which include elevated liver enzymes, elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, hypertension, and gastrointestinal perforations. Actemra is marketed by San Francisco-based Genentech Inc., a subsidiary of Roche.
CMS Issues Annual Report on National Health Spending
The Centers for Medicare & Medical Services recently released the 2008 report on US health spending: Figures show that spending on health increased 4.4 percent in 2008, to $2.3 trillion or an average of $7,681 per person. This was the slowest rate of growth since the CMS started tracking spending in 1960. However, this slow growth is not slow enough, because it still outpaced overall nominal economic growth, which grew by 2.6 percent in 2008 as measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to Jonathan Blum, director of CMS’ Center for Medicare Management:
“This report contains some welcome news and yet another warning sign. Health care spending as a percentage of GDP is rising at an unsustainable rate. It is clear that we need health insurance reform now.”
ACC sues HHS over planned reimbursement cuts
Doctors suing the Department of Health and Human Services? Yes, it’s true. No other than the American College of Cardiology (ACC) that is spearheading a lawsuit in a Florida court against HHS) and its secretary Kathleen Sebelius although their problem is specifically with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Together with the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, the Association of Black Cardiologists, and the Cardiology Advocacy Alliance, ACC is trying to stop CMS from implementing planned reimbursement cuts for certain types of cardiovascular imaging. CMS is an agency of HHS. In October last year, the CMS 2010 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule was released in October, which provides the following cuts starting January 1, 2010:
- A 36% reduction for myocardial perfusion single-photon-emission computed tomography (SPECT)
- A four-year phase-in of a 10% reduction in the physician payment for transthoracic echocardiography with spectral and color Doppler
- A 5% reduction for ECG
- A 14% cut for the combined echo codes
Photo credit: stock.xchng; HHS