Birth Control Plan B

There has been proposal made to let emergency contraceptives be sold over the counter. If this proposal is passed, Plan b could have been sold to teenagers under the age of 16.

The pill, which is also referred to as Plan B one-step can be obtained without a prescription as long as the patient is over the age of 17. Girls who are under the age of 16 are able to get Plan B with a prescription. Some states allow the pharmacist to write the prescription on the spot. If a woman takes the pill after having unprotected sex, then her chances of getting pregnant are cut in half.

Kathleen Sibelius, who is the secretary for Health and Human services is trying to overrule the proposal made by the Food and Drug Administration. She believes that parents should be involved in their children’s decision to get birth control Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg disagrees. She believes that all young women should have easy access to Plan B.

Sibelius contacted Dr. Hamburg and stated that she did not agree with this proposal. Sibelius is especially concerned about the fact that girls as young as ten or eleven can have access to this pill.

Studies have shown that women do not take emergency contraceptive after having unprotected sex. Many women do not fully understand the risks that come along with having unprotected sex. Forty percent of children today are born outside of wedlock. Half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Additionally, approximately two percent of pregnancies are ended in abortion.

Plan B has about 1.5 milligrams of synthetic progesterone. That is lower than most other contraceptives. The sooner that a woman takes the pill, the more effective it will be. This medication works by preventing ovulation. It may also help prevent the fertilized egg from attaching tot he uterus. Plan B will not work if pregnancy has already occurred.

Plan B first came on the market in 1999. In 2003, a push began to make it available over-the-counter. In 2008, women who were 18 or over could buy this medication over the counter. The following year, the age restriction was lowered to 17.

The Fight Against HIV And Aids

The President of United States, Barack Obama has promoted the fight against AIDS with a new objective of providing treatment to more than six million people around the world by the year 2013. Initially, the goal was set at four million people globally.

As the World AIDS day was marked on Thursday, Obama urged world leaders to step up their efforts to combat AIDS. He also urged China to increase its donations to provide drugs to counter the effects of AIDS.

The immediate former US president Bush spoke to the Washington event by satellite. Bush sought to make HIV and AIDS a priority in his administration when he was in power. The event was sponsored by ONE campaign.

Advocacy groups were happy with the new goals set by the US. The United States is the largest single AIDS donor. The annual funding for AIDS and HIV programs reduced to 15 billion dollars. This is well below the 24 billion dollars UN agencies expected by 2015.

MINORITY GET TREATMENT

New HIV infections fell from 3.1 million in 2001 to 2.7 million in 2010. On the other hand, the number of people who have access to HIV combating drugs rose from 400,000 in 2003 to 6.65 million in 2010.

While these figures might be impressive, the number of people living with AIDS globally is more than 34 million. According to research studies, HIV drugs reduce the spread of the virus to the patient’s partner by up to 96 percent.

Obama also said that as part of the goal to achieve a generation free of AIDS, his government would be providing anti retroviral drugs to 1.5 million expectant mothers who are HIV-positive.

Ocrelizumab – new drug for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Ocrelizumab is a new experimental drug that has proven to be effective in a clinical trial that used 220 people with multiple sclerosis. MS is a debilitating autoimmune disease that occurs in a large amount of North Americans. It normally attacks young people and is more likely to be found in women than men.

This study was done by scientists at UCSF Medical Center and included hospitals located in the United States, Europe, and Canada. It was performed on patients with relapsing-remitting MS. This is a form that is known for the accumulation of brain and spinal chord lesions and attacks on the neurological system.

The patients were chosen by random and separated into four groups. Two of these groups got injected with the monoclonal antibody Ocrelizumab at two doses. One group received the standard drug called interferon-beta. The last group received a placebo.

The doctors observed the effectiveness of each treatment through monthly MRI brain scans and counting the marks that were visible that were indicators of inflamed lesions. They also marked the frequency and severity of each neurological attack that led to vision loss, weakness, numbness, or other symptoms.

The trial’s results proved that patients on the drug did well and showed less signs of the disease than those on the placebo or standard medication. In the end, Ocrelizumab reduced brain lesions by 89% and lessened the amount of new attacks over six months. Throughout this short study, interferon did no better than the placebo. Dr Stephan Hauser, leader of the study, claimed “it is a remarkable finding”. he said that the nest step would be to see if the effects would be maintained over time.

Ocrelizumab works differently than other MS drugs. Most of the drugs target a person’s immune system, but in different parts. Multiple Sclerosis involves a person’s immune system attacking the nerve fibers in the brain and spine. This can disrupt the usual flow of the brain’s communication and leads to symptoms like visual impairment, fatigue, weakness and coordination problems, and cognitive difficulties.

While most drugs target the T cells in the immune system, Ocrelizumab targets the CD20 molecule of the B cells, a different part of the immune system. The concluded trial validated the theory that targeting the B cells may end up greatly helping those with Multiple Sclerosis. All of the work was funded by Roche and may someday lead to a better treatment for MS.

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Medicare Beneficiaries are Selling Prescription Drugs

Medicare beneficiaries, as many as 170,000 of them, may have been doctor shopping in order to obtain multiple prescriptions of muscle relaxer and non-narcotic painkiller drugs, according to a recent Government Accountability Office audit of the Medicare Part D prescription drugs plan.

Among the commonly used medications sought by the Medicare beneficiaries in question were popular drugs like oxycodone, Adderall (a form of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine), Valium (a brand of diazepam), Xanax (a brand of alprazolam), carisoprodol (sold under the brand Soma), and the non-narcotic painkiller drugs, and brands of tramadol, Ultram and Ultracet .

The audit determined that 170,000 beneficiaries of Medicare had received five or more prescriptions from different doctors for these and other popular medications, all at a cost of approximately $148 million to the Medicare Part D program.

Though Medicare is generally thought of as a program to benefit senior citizens, the overwhelming majority of the suspected doctor shoppers are not on Medicare due to their age. Nearly three-quarters, about 71%, had Part D coverage due to disability. Even more, 72%, benefited from the Medicare Low-Income Cost-Sharing subsidy.

The most sought-after medications were hydrocodone and oxycodone, two of the most prescribed and most abused painkiller drugs in the United States. The findings of the GAO audit have raised heightened concern among government officials and legislators that Medicare benefits are being used to disguise and subsidize addictions. One U.S. Senator, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, referred to the doctor-shopping as “taxpayer-funded drug dealing.”

The GAO audit involved a review of prescriptions filled by beneficiaries of Medicare Part D between May 2010 and October 2011 for a dozen controlled substances, including those listed above. The GAO focused its investigation on specific cases, determining that the doctors who wrote those prescriptions were unaware that their patients had been abusing the drugs, trying to sell them, or visiting other doctors to obtain more.

According to the investigation, one beneficiary received prescriptions for oxycodone from 58 separate doctors, filled at 45 separate pharmacies, totalling 3,655 pills. Another obtained a 994-day supply of hydrocodone from 25 different prescribers.

As a result of these findings, the GAO has recommended imposing limitations on identified doctor shoppers of a single doctor and a single pharmacy. Also recommended is turning over the names of known doctor shoppers to insurance companies that administer Medicare Part D plans.

CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has proposed an alternative rule requiring that Part D sponsors include a physician identifier on all prescriptions, allowing insurers to confirm that the prescription was written by an actual doctor. CMS has also proposed new guidelines for detecting and reporting misuse of controlled substances.

What are the “Essential” Health Benefits?

Health insurance reform was a welcomed development for many Americans, but it also raised many questions. One of the most important of these centers on the definition of an “essential health benefit.” The answer to that question is something just about everyone with any sort of a stake in health reform is anxiously waiting for.

The Affordable Care Act defines ten broad categories of essential benefits that all medical insurance providers must cover as essential health benefits. The specifics within those categories are at the discretion of the Department of Health and Human Services. This Friday the Institute of Medicine will make its recommendations, which are expected to have a strong influence on what the HHS ultimately decides are essential benefits.

It would be difficult to overstate how important this will be for the health insurance industry. All plans wanting to sell on the new medical insurance marketplace will be required to offer these benefits. Additionally, the plans will be ranked according to how much of the benefits the insurance company will pay for; 60 percent and the plan is ranked “bronze,” while 90 percent qualifies as “platinum.”

The actual regulations won’t be established by HHS for several more months, but the work is already well underway. Much of it centers on one dilemma that promises to be difficult to resolve: how to make the essential benefits comprehensive enough to be useful, yet also affordable. A sparse benefits package won’t provide the robust coverage envisioned by health reformers. But a package that is too comprehensive will be prohibitively expensive.

Patient groups have tailored their lobbying strategy to match HHS concerns, pragmatically realizing that appeals for policies that include every conceivable coverage option will be wasted energy.

There are also political risks associated with laundry lists of benefits. If a particular benefit is cut from the list, there may not be space to squeeze it back in later. In previous meetings with patient’s rights lobbyists, HHS has suggested allowing plans some flexibility to define their benefits, with affordability being the crucial concern.

The final regulations will likely establish a middle ground, somewhere between the wide-open generality of the ten broad benefit categories and an exhaustively specific list of covered conditions and procedures. Those final rules won’t be ready until May of 2012 at the very earliest, according to sources at HHS. Between now and then, patient groups will have plenty of time to lobby for the best possible outcome in this latest phase of the reform of health insurance.